Politicians who fail to submit income declaration go unpunished

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Under Czech law, politicians have to declare their earnings and gifts every year. Some of them, including government ministers, still have not submitted their property declarations for the year 2000, even though the deadline was June last year. This year's deadline is fast approaching - has the prospect of next month's general elections led politicians to put their affairs in order?

Czech ministers, MPs and senators are required to file their income declaration by the end of June every year. With the exception of the Christian Democrats, there are a few MPs in every party who still have not submitted their declarations for last year and there are three government ministers among the culprits as well. They don't need to worry because they don't face any consequences. Neither their position nor their salary is at stake. I asked Vaclav Zak, the editor-in-chief of the political bimonthly Listy, whether the law was to blame?

"I must confess I was one of the authors of this law. When we started to think how to solve the situation, we used the German model. Because it wa s clear the Czech parliament would not consent real property declarations here."

However, as Vaclav Zak told me, there have been cases in the past, when the law forced certain politicians - for example the Civic Democrat Petr Cermak - to resign after they failed to declare their earnings. How come they can get away with it now?

"Now unfortunately the public opinion is not very sensitive to these issues, so I think only political responsibility can change the situation. You can't simply punish the MP."

The June elections will show whether the Czech public care whether their MP respects the law or not. On the other hand, some politicians themselves say that the law should definitely be properly enforced. The opposition Coalition says the guilty officials should be fined or stripped of their salary or ultimately their office. Most MPs agree that property declarations should be compulsory for a wider range of public officials. But as Vaclav Zak says, it depends on the result of the elections whether the law will be amended or not.