Police raid at Office of Czech Government sends shockwaves across political spectrum

The Office of the Czech Government, photo: Tomáš Adamec

A raid by the country’s organised crime unit at the Office of the Government and several other institutions has sent shockwaves throughout the country. Among those detained are former Civic Democrat MPs and a close aide to the prime minister. The scandal has rocked the Czech political scene and there is speculation it could result in the government’s fall.

Jana Nagyová,  photo: archive of the Office of the Czech Government
The centre-right coalition led by Prime Minister Petr Nečas had been hit by scandals before, but nothing compares to this: an unprecedented raid at the Office of the Government, also at the Defence Ministry, the offices of key lobbyists and a former head of military intelligence, all apparently connected. The sweep, involving 400 officers, began at around 12:30 AM Thursday and could continue for days. Many politicians within the coalition themselves only learned what had happened through morning news reports. Most have refrained from assessing the situation until more information is released.

The police crime unit has been tight-lipped about the operation from the start; on Thursday morning the unit’s spokesman Pavel Hanták revealed only the following:

“The police are continuing the operation which is being overseen by the high state prosecutor in Olomouc. All steps being taken have been officially approved and are in line with the law.”

Ivan Fuksa,  photo: archive of Czech Radio
Allegedly, among those detained are former Civic Democrat MPs Petr Tluchoř and Ivan Fuksa as well as Jana Nagyová – a close aide to the prime minister. Another name included is that of Ondrej Páleník, a former head of Military Intelligence who now heads the State Material Reserves. There is all manner of speculation over connections, so-called party godfathers and lobbyists involved in who knows what matter of shady deals; but until the anti-crime unit reveals more, speculation it will remain. Few expect further news at this point to be good: Andor Šandor is a former head of Czech Military Intelligence:

“I think what we are seeing here is truly unprecedented. Both in terms of the scope and in terms of the individuals who have come under scrutiny.”

The opposition have called for an explanation throughout the day but for most of Thursday the prime minister was markedly absent, failing to attend a parliamentary session which was eventually curtailed. The opposition Social Democrats who are to meet later today to debate the crisis, have made clear they think this cabinet should end and end quickly. Social Democrat MP Jeronym Tejc:

Petr Tluchoř,  photo: Matěj Pálka
“This is definitely an extraordinary development and I cannot think of the last time, in any country, that the police raided the office of the government. If it proves true that Miss Nagyová was detained, then I think the situation is so serious we may even trump some banana republics.”

Others, such as the Civic Democratic Party’s partners in government, TOP 09, are not jumping to any conclusions, but they too want an explanation. Primarily, if close aide Jana Nagyová is implicated, it is clear they expect the prime minister to step down. As it stands, at best the government faces a vote of no-confidence but at this point no one will be surprised if developments spiral into its collapse.