Klaus backs embattled police president

Petr Lessy, photo: CTK

Differences between police president Petr Lessy, Prime Minister Petr Nečas and the country’s finance minister, Miroslav Kalousek, reached boiling point this week, leading the country’s head-of-state, Vaclav Klaus, to weigh in. On Wednesday Mr Klaus met the police president at Prague Castle, expressed full support for him and clearly stated that attacks against the police official had to stop.

Miroslav Kalousek,  Petr Lessy,  photo: CTK
For days now, accusations have flown between police president Petr Lessy and the finance minister, Miroslav Kalousek. At the centre of the row is Mr Lessy’s claim before the Committee on Security that he was lobbied by Minister Kalousek recently over a controversial military plane purchase under investigation. The police president suggested that the call from the finance minister was not only inappropriate but an attempt at intimidation. Mr Lessy didn’t stop there: at the weekend he sent a letter to subordinates urging them to resist any political pressure while investigating corruption cases. That drew fire from Prime Minister Petr Nečas who slammed the police president for the letter sent:

“He is treading the path of the political activist. In acting as he did I feel that he has overstepped the line and such behaviour is not compatible with the post of police president.”

Petr Lessy,  photo: CTK
The row which flared up and peaked this week probably wasn’t helped by Mr Lessy’s claim he was willing to take a lie detector test over Kalousek’s phone call, a histrionic gesture in the view of some critics. It has also put pressure on the government as a whole, with the opposition calling a no confidence vote in the centre-right government. Social Democrat leader Bohuslav Sobotka:

“After we exhausted all possibilities calling for the finance minister to be recalled from his post, we were left with no other option.”

Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek, meanwhile, revealed on Wednesday morning he had written records of the controversial phone call which he told Czech Radio would prove that the police president’s version of the story was inaccurate. He promised to read excerpts later ahead of the vote in the Chamber of Deputies.

Václav Klaus,  Petr Lessy,  photo: CTK
Finance Minister Kalousek:

“I plan on showing contradictions in his story and will give written records, proof, in the lower house, which will show he wasn’t telling the truth.”

Mr Kalousek’s claim aside, President Klaus’ backing of the police president is undoubtedly an attempt to defuse an increasingly explosive situation, at the very least to allow the police to continue unhampered in their work. It is unclear to what degree key actors will respect the president’s call; given how much apparently remains buried beneath the surface, it may be some time before the row is fully resolved. Interior Minister Jan Kubice, for example, has also waded into the fray, saying Mr Lessy told him last month he would step down in September, a claim the police president swiftly denied. At this point it’s anyone’s guess who is telling the truth.