Fresh scandal explodes on Czech political scene ahead of senate, local elections

Jana Hybaskova

Just days ahead of the country's senate and local elections yet another corruption scandal has exploded on the Czech political scene. Jana Hybaskova, leader of the European Democrats, a small centre-right party has accused two Civic Democratic Party ministers and a deputy for the governing party of corruption.

This latest in a long line of scandals pertains to a large sum of money - 15 million crowns - which the European Democrats say they are owed by the state for the 2002 elections. There's some controversy as to whether the party was eligible for this financial contribution from the state and for the past five years the European Democrats and the Finance Ministry have been battling the matter in court.

Now events have taken an unexpected turn. The head of the European Democrats Jana Hybaskova claims that a person close to the governing Civic Democratic Party told her the money could be available within a week if three of the mentioned 15 million ended up in the pockets of finance minister Vlastimil Tlusty, Justice Minister Jiri Pospisil and an unnamed party deputy.

Mrs. Hybaskova is pressing charges. Although she has nothing material to produce she is hoping that a third party, who she claims was present at the talks when the offer was made, will come forward and testify.

This is a bad blow for the Civic Democratic Party - which is widely seen as a strong contender in the upcoming elections. Clearly the matter is not likely to be resolved within the next few days and so the Civic Democrats will have to go into the elections with this scandal hanging over their heads.

Finance Minister Vlastimil Tlusty,  photo: CTK
Consequently the party is now doing everything in its power to convince the public that this is a smear campaign intended to tarnish its image ahead of the elections. Both Finance Minister Tlusty and Justice Minister Pospisil have publicly denied the accusations and say that unless they get an apology from Mrs. Hybaskova they too will take the matter to court and press charges of slander.

This is a situation that is well known to the Czech public - the word of one party against another - and little hope of seeing the matter resolved in a satisfactory manner. Once again scandals are overshadowing the real issues as Czechs go to the polls and there is a tangible mood of discontent with Czech politics.