A political storm erupted after the conclusions of a parliamentary investigation into the far-reaching overhaul of the Czech police was announced. Deputy prime minister and ANO leader Andrej Babiš was at the centre of the storm after denouncing the commission as “a joke” after it said it found no evidence of wrongdoing.
Controversial police reforms, a parliamentary commission’s unanimous findings of no wrongdoing, and all the pressure of an election year: on Thursday all combined as the background for a perfect political storm. At the centre? Two of the government’s most prominent figures: ANO leader and Finance Minister Andrej Babiš and Prime Minister and Social Democratic Party leader Bohuslav Sobotka. Babiš did not mince words after the final results of the commission’s 15 page report were read.
“The Social Democrats with Mr Kalousek of TOP 09 and the Civic Democrats put this piece of work together perfectly. Let us congratulate them for this Czech ‘Palermo’.”
Mr Babiš outburst followed the release of findings which flared the flames of a conflict which already erupted last May when the ANO leader charged the police reform was politically inspired to curb the powers of an elite anti-corruption unit.
The head of that unit, Robert Šlachta, resigned in protest. But according to the commission, there was no evidence the reforms had purposely targeted Mr Šlachta, nor was there evidence that there had been an attempt to quash police activities or prevent the investigation of certain politically sensitive cases. One area the evidence was clear, the commission found, was that the reforms had been hastily and poorly prepared.
Certainly some MPs were less than happy with the findings, charging, for example, that the lack of conclusive evidence was hardly the same as clearing someone of wrongdoing. But the prime minister nevertheless hit back at Mr Babiš, saying commission results needed to be respected. He made clear in no uncertain terms that Mr Babiš was out of line with his angry remarks and should apologize.
Miroslav Kalousek, the head of the right-wing opposition party, a long-time opponent of Mr Babiš said this:
“The ANO chairman labels any facts which don’t suit him ‘lies’ spread by a corrupt group of louts. Sorry, that is not how serious discussions are conducted.”
The Communist Party’s Pavel Kovačik summed up Thursday’s war of words by saying that was being witnessed was an inner-battle in government ahead of this year’s elections.
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