Prime Minister Petr Nečas confirmed late Sunday, following a meeting of his party’s top leadership, that he will tender his resignation as prime minister on Monday. The move comes days after police, in an anti-graft operation, raided the office of the government and eight people – including the premier’s chief-of-staff - were arrested and now face criminal charges. All except one have been remanded in custody. Mr Nečas said late Sunday that the moment had come to accept political responsibility; he will also step down as chairman of the right-of-centre Civic Democratic Party.
TOP 09 leader and Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg said on Sunday he had been questioned by the police in connection with an earlier statement he made to the effect that the three rebel Civic Democrat MPs were blackmailing the ruling coalition. Mr. Schwarzenberg said that he had confirmed making the statement and stood by his words, although he did not believe the MPs actions constituted a criminal offense but rather reflected the “darker side of politics”. Investigators have charged the former MPs with corruption on the grounds that they vacated their posts, and allowed the government’s controversial tax package to pass through parliament, in return for lucrative posts in state-owned companies.
It has emerged that the prime minister had seen photos of his wife, taken by those shadowing her, a few days before the police raid which set the scandal in motion. The lawyer of Jana Nagyova, the prime minister’s chief of staff, who has been romantically linked to her boss, told journalists Nagyova has shown Mr. Nečas the photos in tears, saying that someone had given them to her and that it appeared his wife might be coming under the influence of the religious sect Jehovah’s Witnesses. She allegedly did not inform the prime minister she had commissioned the country’s military intelligence to spy on his wife and two others. The prime minister on Saturday apologized to the three people who had been spied on, saying he deeply regretted the affair and would never have allowed the intelligence services to be abused in this manner.
Eleven people, including a number of foreign tourists, were injured in a tram collision in Prague on Saturday evening. The accident happened in Prague’s Klarov district when a tram full of passengers crashed into an empty tram on its way to the depo. The driver and ten passengers suffered light injuries. The cause of the accident is being investigated.
The regional court in Ostrava on Sunday ruled that former Civic Democrat MP Marek Šnajdr be remanded in custody. Šnajdr is one of three former Civic Democrat MPs charged with having accepted a bribe in return for vacating their seats in Parliament. He was one of eight people charged in connection with the extensive anti-graft operation. Seven of the accused have been refused bail. Only the head of the country’s military intelligence, General Milan Kovanda was released. General Kovanda told the court he believed he was acting in the interests of the Czech Republic when he took orders from the prime minister’s chief-of-staff to spy on three people.
Negotiations between the three parties in the ruling coalition, meanwhile,
continued briefly Sunday night to discuss who might replace the
outgoing premier, capable of also receiving backing from the country’s
Zeman. Under the Czech Constitution, Mr Nečas’ reisgnation will mark
the end of the current government and the president will be under no
obligation to respect proposals from the coalition; in the wake of the
resignation he could name his own candidate to head an interim government.
Outgoing Prime Minister Petr Nečas said on Sunday that he believed the current coaltion could still put together a majority in the lower house and he expressed the conviction that the president - as a democrat - would respect the balance of power in the Chamber of Deputies.
Olomouc High State Attorney Ivo Ištvan has said the police might re-open corruption cases which had been shelved in the past. Speaking in a televised debate, Mr. Ištvan said that all of the evidence collected within the ongoing anti-graft operation would be followed up. Among the persons targeted are two prominent lobbyists who have so far not been charged. Both are out of the country, but the police raided their Prague offices, confiscating sensitive documents and vast amounts of money in cash. In the past Swiss police froze one of the lobbyist’s accounts on suspicion of extensive money laundering. They asked Czech state attorneys for help but the Czech side shelved the case due to lack of evidence.
The opposition parties, who had been calling for the prime minister ‘s resignation and early elections have expressed outrage over the latest developments. Opposition leader Bohuslav Sobotka accused the ruling parties of shameful conduct which he said was damaging the country’s reputation both at home and abroad. The opposition leader said that if the Civic Democrats thought they could whitewash their reputation by getting rid of Petr Nečas they were very much mistaken. The opposition Communist Party and Public Affairs said that while they would continue to push for early elections it seemed evident that the ruling coalition was determined not to relinquish power.
The ruling coalition party TOP 09, which on Friday expressed support for the prime minister on the grounds that the police had failed to provide sufficient evidence in the case, has called an emergency meeting of its party leadership for Saturday evening. The move came following growing discontent with the party’s position on the matter and criticism of the prime minister. Party deputy-chair Miroslav Kalousek, said the situation was grave. There have been widespread reports that TOP 09 is preparing to hold talks on early elections with the opposition Social Democrats.
Jana Nagyová the prime minister’s chief-of-staff and by all accounts a central figure in the ongoing corruption scandal, has been refused bail. Nagyová is accused of abuse of office and corruption and could face up to five years in prison. She will remain in custody in Ostrava. Her lawyer has appealed the verdict. The regional court in Ostrava likewise refused bail to former agriculture minister Ivan Fuksa, and his former deputy Roman Boček, former Civic Democrat MP Petr Tluchoř and the former head of military intelligence, General Ondřej Palenik.
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