PM refusing to go despite serious accusations against aide

Petr Nečas, photo: CTK

What is being described as one of the Czech Republic’s biggest ever political scandals has seen more astonishing twists. The most remarkable development has been the charging of the prime minister’s chief of staff with using the country’s military intelligence chiefs as a kind of personal spy service. However, despite these damning accusations, the prime minister is stoutly resisting calls for his head.

Petr Nečas,  photo: CTK
The world of Czech politics was rocked on Thursday when it emerged that the police’s organised crime squad had raided the Office of the Government and a number of other locations, making several arrests.

On Friday, the high drama intensified with the news that the police had filed charges against the current and former heads of the Military Intelligence of spying on the prime minister’s (now estranged) wife and other persons.

The two were allegedly acting on the orders of Jana Nagyová, who has also been charged. She is Prime Minister Petr Nečas’s chief of staff and the two have been romantically linked.

Among a total of seven people charged on Friday are former MPs for the prime minister’s party, the Civic Democrats. The deputies' resignation last year allowed the government to survive a vote on tax changes (to which they had expressed opposition) linked to a confidence vote. They later received lucrative posts on the boards of state-owned companies.

In a closely-watched news conference, the head of the organised crime squad said that up to CZK 150 million in cash and tens of kilos of gold were discovered in searches on Thursday. It is known that the premises of two extremely wealthy businessmen with alleged links to politicians were raided.

Photo: CTK
State attorney Petr Šereda was asked what connected the two major threads of the investigation, which has been underway for 18 months.

“They’re connected by the fact we’ve been running one joint criminal investigation… The second connection is that one person appears in both – that is Mrs. Nagyová. She is accused of organisation of the abuse of power and of bribery.”

Minutes after those damning charges were enunciated, all eyes turned to the Chamber of Deputies, where Petr Nečas was due to speak. Many commentators had been tweeting that he would have no choice but to quit. Instead, he came out fighting.

Looking defiant, Mr. Nečas described the accusations as a media cocktail of various, unconnected ingredients. He then turned to the charge that his party’s former rebel MPs had accepted bribes in the form of lucrative posts.

“It is not an unusual thing for people to behave loyally towards their political party – they prevented the fall of the government – and for their party then to take that into account and to act accordingly…The idea of ‘I support you, you support me’ is a standard element of politics.”

That defence could be seen to hold some water, but the accusations against Mr. Nečas’s close aide are still extremely serious. Political scientist Petr Just says his fate may now depend on TOP 09, the second biggest party in his coalition.

TOP 09 leaders Miroslav Kalousek and Karel Schwarzenberg,  photo: CTK
“Based on the information we have so far, the key to the solution of the situation, meaning from the political point of view, is in the hands of TOP 09. It will be their decision that influences whether Petr Nečas and the government will remain in power, or whether there will be a vote for the dissolution of parliament and early elections will be held.”

Shortly after we spoke to Mr. Just, TOP 09 chairman Karel Schwarzenberg told reporters that the current situation was insufficient reason for the fall of the government.

Nevertheless, we are unlikely to have heard the last of a story that surely represents some kind of milestone in Czech politics.