Czech politicians are better at denying corruption than media are at exposing it, says pundit

Pavel Drobil (left), Petr Nečas, photo: CTK

Czech Environment Minister Pavel Drobil stepped down on Wednesday. His announcement followed the release of recordings made by the head of a department at his ministry, Libor Michálek, purporting to show Mr Drobil’s advisor pressuring him into corruption aimed at funding the minister’s political career. Another tape appeared to show Mr Drobil offering Mr Michálek a promotion – if he destroyed the original evidence. Pavel Drobil’s Civic Democrat party boss, Prime Minister Petr Necas, is standing by him – and both argue that his only mistake was a poor choice of subordinates. Radio Prague spoke to the commentator Erik Best about the implications of the latest Czech corruption scandal.

Pavel Drobil (left), Petr Nečas, photo: CTK
“You can already see that Czech politicians are already better at denial of corruption than the media is at getting them to admit any kind of such activity. If something like this had happened in a Western country, the minister would have left in disgrace.

“But the environment minister, Mr Drobil, actually appeared on the main late-night TV news programme last night, and did a remarkable job of defending himself and trying to put the blame on others. And because of the way the public and the media are conditioned, I think he actually got away with it.

So he’s already rehabilitating himself the very day he resigned. Of course he hasn’t left office yet and he’s in the process of rehabilitating himself.”

In this he seems to have the full support of Prime Minister Petr Nečas who said many times he was standing by Mr Drobil. Do you think the clear is not as clear-cut as it might seem, and Mr Nečas might have a point?

Petr Nečas, Pavel Drobil, photo: CTK
“My feeling is that we have enough information to understand what actually transpired, and that it’s a bigger issue of support within the Civic Democrat party. I suspect, without any evidence of course, that Mr Nečas was told that he needed to support Mr Drobil, otherwise his position within the party would be weakened.

“By doing this, Mr Nečas has in a sense weakened himself because he showed support for someone who is evidently not worthy of that kind of support. But at the same time, he has shown within the Civic Democrat party that he’s willing to play a team game.”

Minister Drobil resigned after a meeting of coalition leaders. What do you make out of the way the government, which calls itself anti-corruption government, reacted to the whole scandal?

Libor Michálek
“I think that perhaps the most interesting thing is the way the parties, especially the Civic Democrats, have reacted to the whistle-blower, in this case Mr Michálek from the Environmental Fund. The day before yesterday, the interior minister put out a list of anti-corruption measures, and one of them was support and encouraging of whistleblowers. I suppose it must have been a typo, I think they meant to say not ‘support’ but ‘suppress’ whistleblowers because Mr Michálek is actually being blamed for everything that’s happening. He is not directly getting the same kind of blame from the other two parties but certainly they have not been very emphatic, trying to criticize what happened.

So I think it’s a situation when the other two parties realized they are susceptible to something like this in the future, and they don’t want to be seen as fighting too much against their coalition partner.”