Prachař quits as transport minister after criticism from all sides

Antonín Prachař, photo: CTK

Antonín Prachař of ANO has resigned as minister of transport, the party’s leader Andrej Babiš announced on Wednesday morning. The move comes in the wake of extensive criticism, including from within ANO, over Mr. Prachař’s handling of both personnel matters and motorway projects. He is set to be replaced by the head of a major road constructor.

Antonín Prachař,  photo: CTK
Antonín Prachař becomes the second minister to exit the centre-left Czech government appointed at the end of January. The first, another ANO appointee, Věra Jourová, resigned to take up a post as European commissioner.

Mr. Prachař’s cabinet career has come to an end in rather different circumstances, following very public criticism from both Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka of the Social Democrats and ANO chief Andrej Babiš.

The 51-year-old, formerly vice president of a national association of hauliers, was accused of causing chaos at the Ministry of Transport. This included delays in major motorway construction projects, as well as foot-dragging over the selection of a manager to oversee a road toll strategy.

Mr. Prachař was also condemned for a number of personnel shakeups. The latest came at the start of this week, when he removed the director of Czech Railways. After months of searching he was also unable to find a new boss for the agency that oversees the country’s road network.

Andrej Babiš,  photo: Filip Jandourek
Standing alongside Mr. Prachař at a news conference on Wednesday, the leader of ANO thanked him, saying he had done his best. However, the minister’s best clearly wasn’t good enough for Mr. Babiš.

“The Ministry of Transport has been in a desperate state for ages. It’s been in decline for some time. Motorways haven’t been built, land for motorway construction hasn’t been purchased, projects haven’t been prepared… It was the same with the Roads and Motorways Directorate, and we’ve had to deal with similar issues at Czech Railways Cargo and Czech Railways.”

Looking nervous, Antonín Prachař told reporters that he was planning to return to the private sector after less than a year in politics.

“Recently I have really become the target of speculation surrounding the Roads and Motorways Directorate, even though in the view of the public it’s now working better than it has in years. But I don’t want to be the target of the opposition and the media. I think that situation doesn’t benefit the Ministry of Transport, me personally, or ANO.”

Dan Ťok,  photo: CTK
Within seconds of Mr. Prachař’s address, Mr. Babiš announced his replacement. He is set to be Dan Ťok, hitherto CEO of construction company Skanska.

The ANO boss said he was aware experts “with an opinion on everything” would questions the choice. However, Mr. Ťok may well face charges of conflict of interest, given that Skanska is one of the biggest players in road building in the Czech Republic.