Resignation of Deputy Prime Minister Martin Jahn a blow to Social Democrats

Deputy Prime Minister for the Economy Martin Jahn, photo: Zdenek Valis

Deputy Prime Minister for the Economy Martin Jahn is dominating the news here in the Czech Republic, after announcing that he is to quit politics by the end of the year. Not a member of any party, he denies he is stepping down because the governing Social Democrats appear to be cozying up to the Communists. But his departure is a blow to the Social Democrats: Mr Jahn is seen as young, dynamic and relatively liberal and had been the party's choice to stand in the next general elections in Prague, a bastion of the right-of-centre Civic Democrats.

Deputy Prime Minister for the Economy Martin Jahn,  photo: Zdenek Valis
Moments after he announced his decision to step down, Martin Jahn told Radio Prague why.

"After very thorough analysis of the situation, I came to the conclusion that a professional career would be more acceptable for me than a political career. I would like to work with the Social Democrats on a professional basis, such as work on their election programme."

Your name is one of the few names among leading government representatives that has not come up in connection with a number of corruption scandals. Could you leaving the Social Democrats not harm the party at this crucial time just a few months before the elections?

"There were some names of politicians that came up in connection with corruption scandals but I am absolutely sure that they had nothing to do with them - Deputy Prime Minister Sobotka and many others, for example. Corruption scandals are just part of the political game."

You believe that but the public may think otherwise. It's really the public who the Social Democrats now need to influence. Don't you think that if you - one of the few people who the public believed in - leave, it could make it more difficult for the Social Democrats to win the elections or at least get a bigger portion of the votes?

Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek,  photo: CTK
"I think that one person cannot change the image of the party. I would be running for the party so people would be voting for the party anyway and I would not be able to change the past of the Social Democrats."

Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek reiterated again today that there has not been and will not be any cooperation with the Communist Party on the government level. But the Social Democrats have been able to push some legislation through parliament because of the tacit support of the Communists. There have been reports that one of the reasons why you are leaving is precisely because of that.

"The Communists are here and we cannot erase them. The Communists also voted for the President and voted on many other things together with the ODS [right-of-centre opposition Civic Democrats]. For me, the quality of the law is more important than who votes for it. I think that my negative position on the Communists is well known but I also think that the Social Democrats have to work within some sort of a political reality.

"So, if the Social Democrats are pushing their programme through, then it's okay. My attention will be on the quality of the law rather than on who votes for it. What is important is that Prime Minister Paroubek said that there will be no direct cooperation with the Communists after the elections and I believe that."