Czechs go to the polls amidst unfolding corruption scandals

Jana Hybaskova, photo: CTK

History is repeating itself. For the second time in six months Czechs are going to the polls amidst unfolding corruption scandals which concern the two chief rivals on the Czech political scene - the centre-right Civic Democrats and the centre left Social Democratic Party. It is important for people to go to the polls since elections to a third of the Senate could tip the constitutional balance of power - but political analysts predict that disgruntled Czechs may decide to vote with their feet.

Jana Hybaskova,  photo: CTK
There's been no let up since June - one political scandal has followed another and the operative world is "corruption". The two which erupted on the Czech political scene this week were perfectly timed. Once again they concern the two rival parties which means that both have had to go into the elections with a cloud hanging over them.

Jana Hybaskova, leader of the European Democrats, a small centre-right party on Tuesday accused the Civic Democratic Party of having asked for a three million crown bribe in a certain transaction - money which was allegedly intended for two Civic Democratic Party ministers and a deputy for that party. The Civic Democrats cried foul.

Jiri Paroubek,  photo: CTK
But if their Social Democratic Party rivals thought this scandal would give them an edge they were mistaken. Less than 48 hours before polling stations opened a former deputy minister for regional development who is charged with abusing EU structural funds threw a bombshell - she told police investigators that the former Social Democrat prime minister Jiri Paroubek was involved in the fraudulent practices she was accused of and had exerted pressure on her through his personal assistant Martin Vlasta. Mr. Paroubek has vehemently denied the accusation and made some of his own saying that certain members of the police force were trying to discredit him ahead of the elections. Wherever the truth lies - the damage has been done.

The air is thick with speculation, accusations and unconfirmed reports and once again it is up to the voters to make up their minds who they want to believe. The Senate vote is particularly important since it could tip the constitutional balance of power. If the two strongest parties - the Civic and Social Democrats gain five more seats between them they would command a two thirds majority in both houses of Parliament enabling them to push through constitutional reform, for instance alter the voting system in such a way that would effectively eliminate smaller parties. Indirectly this weekend's vote could decide about the country's next government, next president and possible changes to the Constitution. However it is not clear whether the public -which is fed up with the state of Czech politics and politicians - will keep in mind what is at stake, put aside its resentment and go to the polls.