Allegations of corruption have rocked the government of the Czech Republic, following police raids on government and private offices, including the Prime Minister’s office. The raids, which were carried out by some 400 armed officers, early Thursday morning, resulted in the arrest of several people, including the Prime Minister’s most senior aide, two former Members of Parliament (MPs) from the Civic Democratic Party and the current and former heads of military intelligence. In the latest development, it appears that what has now become an illegal surveillance scandal has toppled Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas.
The most prominent figure to be arrested, Jana Nagyova, is a long-time confidante of the Prime Minister. Allegations against her include bribing former MPs to give up their seats in Parliament, in exchange for positions with state-owned firms and ordering military intelligence to illegally spy on three people, according to a BBC report.
Necas, who leads a fragile, center-right coalition government, had originally rejected calls for his resignation and said of Ms. Nagyova “I have no reason to think that she has committed anything illegal.” It now appears, however, mounting pressure over this scandal has forced the Czech Prime Minister to announce that he will resign Monday. The affair may topple the governing coalition and force the resignation of the Prime Minister’s entire cabinet.
Czech President Milos Zeman has expressed his deep concern over the affair. Speaking Saturday, he told reporters “I consider the charges that have been brought to be very serious, and after hearing from the chief of police and the supreme state attorney, I am coming to the conclusion that they are based on sufficient evidence.”
Although the Prime Minister stands by his assertion of Nagyova’s innocence, he announced Sunday his intention to resign, saying “I am aware of my political responsibility.”
When Necas first came to power, it had been hoped that he would clean up the rampant corruption surrounding Czech politics. Public concern has grown as a result of various back-room deals struck between private companies and government officials, including rigged tenders, tax evasion and questionable ownership of certain companies linked to the government. The most recent scandal involved lobbyist Roman Janousek, who, it is alleged, had enormous influence over politicians and officials. Janousek faces criminal charges after being arrested for, allegedly, deliberately running over a woman whilst driving drunk.
The Czech Republic and its eastern neighbor, Slovakia, formerly made up Czechoslovakia – once part of the ‘Eastern Bloc’ of European nations once controlled by the former Soviet Union. In 1993, the nation underwent a peaceful split. The Czech Republic is bordered by Germany to the west, Poland and Slovakia to the east, and Austria to the south. It is currently a member-state of both the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union.
Written by Graham J Noble