Communist Party MP to step down from key post but calls right-wing parties a “democratic cesspool”

Zdeněk Ondráček, photo: CTK

The election of Communist MP Zdeněk Ondráček as head of the lower house committee overseeing the police proved short-lived. Following demonstrations across the Czech Republic and a motion for his removal, the MP stepped down of his own accord. The question now is whether the Communist Party will rethink planned support for a minority government headed by Andrej Babiš.

Zdeněk Ondráček,  photo: CTK
The election of Communist MP Zdeněk Ondráček, a former riot police officer who beat pro-democracy demonstrators in Czechoslovakia in 1989, to the top post of the committee overseeing the police crossed the line for many in the Czech Republic, with thousands showing their discontent in protests this week. Many carried truncheons and jangled keys just as they did in 1989 to mock a politician who has shown no remorse for his past actions.

On Tuesday, with his removal from the post looming, Mr Ondráček told the Chamber of Deputies he would step down. But if anyone expected a sudden change of heart or moral imperative based on his past as a riot police officer in a totalitarian state, they will have been disappointed. In his speech in the Chamber, he said he was leaving for security reasons citing threats to his family.

At the same time, Ondráček pulled no punches when it came to parties in the lower house which had instigated steps against him, calling them “a democratic cesspool” and ultimately he rejected that demonstrations by many people against his election had played a role in his decision. Zdeněk Ondráček:

People protest against Zdeněk Ondráček's election to the top post of GIBS,  Wenceslas Square,  Prague,  March 5,  2018,  photo: Martina Schneibergová
“I am not stepping down from this post because of a few loudmouths in the street but because of the security threat to my family. When I was a member of the country’s police force I faced all kinds of pressure coming from you [politicians] who I was investigating. But then, [as a member of the force] I was afforded protection for my family.”

MP Ondráček’s party leader Vojtěch Filip criticised what he called a witch-hunt against the politician, expressing disgust over the stated threats; the leader of the Christian Democrats Pavel Bělobrádek said - if true - any such threats were unacceptable:

“We appreciate the response by the public as well as political parties but that of course does not extend to any kind of threats against Mr Ondráček or his safety, which we condemn.”

Zdeněk Ondráček,  photo: CTK
Tacit support from the Communist Party for a new minority government led by ANO with the Social Democrats appears to be in question following ANO leader Andrej Babiš about face on the election of Mr Ondráček, who was elected in part by ANO MPs.

ANO deputy leader Jaroslav Faltýnek expressed the hope that progress in negotiations would not be scuttled.

“At the moment, I don’t know if it will influence the debate over program demands with the Communists which are almost at an end. I personally don’t think it will but I can’t guess the outcome.”