Defence minister fights for his political future

Alexandr Vondra, photo: CTK

Czech coalition leaders have crossed swords over one of the most influential men in the Czech cabinet – Defence Minister Alexandr Vondra of the Civic Democrats. Mr. Vondra has been dogged by problems lately, the most serious of which is a questionable multi-million crown contract relating to the country’s EU presidency at a time when he held the EU portfolio. When the internet daily euro.cz on Wednesday published information suggesting that Mr. Vondra had allegedly been aware of the dubious terms of the contract which cost taxpayers millions of crowns the two smaller parties moved in for the kill, demanding that minister Vondra face the problem squarely and accept political responsibility for the scandal. I asked political analyst Vít Hloušek if this is likely to be the last straw for the embattled defence minister.

Alexandr Vondra, photo: CTK
“Well, I think this is just one more example of the power play that takes place within the coalition, but the situation now seems more serious because the accusations against Minister Vondra can harm not only his position in the government, but generally the position of the Civic Democratic Party in the government. On the other hand, I can still imagine that Alexandr Vondra may be able to explain his role in the affair and that the Civic Democrats led by Prime Minister Nečas will be able to force their smaller coalition partners not to ask for Minister Vondra’s resignation.”

On the other hand we are talking about a very high-placed politician here in connection with a questionable multi-million crown deal. Is not mere suspicion of involvement enough for a politician to resign at this point?

“Well, I would be cautious in talking about the personal responsibility of Alexandr Vondra in this matter. It is clear that the whole affair should be explained and it should be clear who bears responsibility for it, but I would still give Mr. Vondra some time to explain his role in this affair and for the other actors involved to clarify exactly what happened.”

Vít Hloušek
You know this government has been sending out a strong anti-corruption message ever since it took office, but its own record is not very good in this respect. So how credible is it at this point in terms of fighting corruption – and being serious about fighting corruption?

“Definitely it is less credible than it was prior to taking office. And it is not just the Vondra affair we are talking about, there were other scandals before this. What is also a problem is that the coalition is more fragile than it seemed after the elections and despite its comfortable majority in the lower house it spends more time dealing with its own internal problems than with important policy issues, corruption included.”