Former police chief appointed interior minister

Jan Kubice, photo: CTK

President Vaclav Klaus on Thursday appointed Jan Kubice the country’s new interior minister. The former head of a police squad for fighting organized crime comes with the reputation of a zealous civil servant who was not afraid to pick a fight with politicians. He became a household name in 2006 when he leaked a report to the press in which he claimed that organized crime had infiltrated state administration. Who is the new Czech interior minister and why has his appointment infuriated the opposition?

Jan Kubice,  Václav Klaus,  photo: CTK
Selecting a non-partisan, trustworthy and widely-acceptable candidate for the post of interior minister in the wake of the worst corruption scandal to hit any Czech government post-1989 was not an easy task. As TOP 09 leader Karel Schwarzenberg put it if such a man were found all three coalition parties should go and give thanks at Svatá Hora – a well-known place of pilgrimage not far from Prague. Not everyone is likely to share that sentiment today. Jan Kubice’s appointment has evoked mixed reactions –from high hopes that he will clean the ministry of corruption and restore public trust in the government to outrage on the part of opposition politicians who blame him for their party’s defeat in the 2006 general elections. They claim he is anything but non-partisan, accuse him of using underhand tactics to influence the outcome of the 2006 elections and say he has little to show for his seventeen years with the police force.

Jan Kubice,  photo: CTK
Colonel Jan Kubice joined the police after the fall of communism in 1989 when the force needed new blood. In 1995 he was made head of a special police squad for fighting organized crime and made enemies left and right in his zealous determination to crack down on what he later described as a powerful crime network which had successfully infiltrated state administration. In 2006 –shortly before the country’s general elections he leaked a confidential report to that effect to journalists. It exploded on the Czech political scene like a bombshell and the Social Democrats maintain that Kubice robbed them of what they believe would have been certain victory.

But it is not only the opposition which has a bone to pick with Mr. Kubice. Former interior minister Tomáš Sokol fought and lost a court battle with him over how he was presented in the said report and his conflicts with the post-2006 interior minister Ivan Langer and members of the police presidium led to his eventual departure from the force in 2007.

On the day of his appointment the daily Lidové Noviny ran the headline: the Interior Ministry is quaking in its shoes – Colonel Kubice is back. The paper says some people may be packing their belongings and moving on, but the newly appointed interior minister says he is not planning any radical moves until he has had time to become acquainted with the present situation at the ministry.

Former Interior Minister Radek John,  Jan Kubice,  PM Petr Nečas,  photo: CTK
Jan Kubice’s only potentially weak spot is that fact that after leaving the police force he set up a private detective agency together with a former co-worker. Conscious of the fact that another detective agency nearly brought down the government, Mr. Kubice has hastened to assure the press that he had severed all ties with it.