Corruption scandals mushrooming in Czech politics ahead of general elections

Martin Kraus, photo: CTK

On Tuesday, a member of parliament for the opposition right-of-centre Civic Democratic Party gave up his mandate and all his political functions. Vladimir Dolezal is alleged to have asked for an 800,000 crown bribe (over 32,000 US dollars) in return for a promise to clear the way for construction on municipal plots. He says he is innocent and is only resigning in order not to damage his party ahead of the general elections in mid-June.

Michal Kraus,  photo: CTK
But Mr Dolezal is just one of over half a dozen politicians from the two leading parties whose names have recently come up in corruption affairs. Michal Kraus, an MP for the ruling Social Democrats, is alleged to have invested tens of thousands of dollars in a business deal in the West African country of Ghana. So what lies behind these mushrooming corruption scandals in Czech politics? Political commentators say the answer is simple: the upcoming elections. Dita Asiedu spoke to political commentator Jiri Pehe:

"The upcoming election is definitely one of the reasons for the growing number of corruption scandals. It is clear that politicians, who aren't willing to discuss issues that are important for this country, have decided to go for mud-slinging and since the Czech political system is a rather closed system in which politicians from various parties know each other very well, they also know very well of possible engagements of their colleagues in dubious deals and things of that sort. So, I think that this is now being publicised and used as political weaponry and we will see more of it before the elections."

So if these are dirty election campaigns, to discredit opposition parties, do you think they have been effective?

"I think that the corruption scandals that have been created by some politicians with the help of the media to smear other politicians have been effective to some extent but not to the level that they would be in the West or in developed democracies. If you look at opinion polls, most people believe Czech politics is a dirty business, that corruption is widespread among all politicians and therefore if one politician is caught people tend to think it is perhaps good that one corruption scandal was uncovered but on the other hand we know that other politicians have their hands dirty as well."

So you don't think that this mud-slinging, as you call it, would result in a significant number of voters turning to smaller parties then?

"I think that there is a problem with credibility. A lot of the smaller parties, which are not in parliament at the moment, have members who once were active in Czech politics and they lack credibility to some extent to fight against corruption because they were themselves part of the political system in the 1990s. The only party that is able to point to corruption is unfortunately the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia because it is a party which has not been in any government in the last 16 years and now paradoxically or absurdly is a clean party in the eyes of many voters. So, I think that if any party will benefit from these corruption scandals, it will be the Communist Party."