Speculation rife about real reason behind justice minister’s fall

Jiří Pospíšil, Petr Nečas, photo: CTK

The sudden dismissal of one of the most popular members of the Czech government, Justice Minister Jiří Pospíšil gave rise to intense speculation about the real motivation of the move. Prime Minister Petr Nečas reiterated on Thursday he had fired Mr Pospíšil over poor management of the ministry. However, few believe this was the real reason behind the fall of the justice minister.

The demonstration on Prague’s Palackého náměstí,  June 27 2012,  photo: CTK
It’s not very common for Czechs to protest against the dismissal of a government minister. But on Wednesday night, several dozen students gathered in the centre of Prague to voice their objections to the dismissal of Jiří Pospíšil from the post of justice minister.

One of the protestors, Jakub Drápal, said he thought that mismanagement of the ministry and budgetary issues were only a pretext for Mr Pospíšil’s dismissal. That feeling is shared by many commentators and politicians, including those from within the Mr Nečas‘ and Mr Pospíšil’s own party, the Civic Democrats. Instead, many people speculate that the prime minister acted so swiftly in order to avoid the appointment of Lenka Bradáčová to the post of the high state attorney in Prague. Commentator Erik Best says that might have far-reaching consequences for the fight against corruption.

Jiří Pospíšil,  photo: CTK
“Apparently, PM Nečas found out about it shortly before he asked for the removal of Mr Pospíšil. There is some doubt about when he learnt about it but it seems that he was under pressure to act very quickly because once Ms Bradáčová is put in the position, it is very difficult to remove her. That position in Prague is seen as crucial in the investigation or non-investigation of some of the major corruption cases.”

The coalition TOP 09 party has meanwhile asked the prime minister to make sure that Ms Bradáčová does get appointed to the post regardless of who the next justice minister will be.

The relations between Prime Minister Nečas and the former justice minister have apparently never been very good. According to a report by the on-line daily Insider, they suffered a further strain in February when Jiří Pospíšil failed to inform the prime minister that the state attorney in Prague was reviewing a case file related to corruption at the Environment Ministry in which the police briefly suspected the prime minister himself. That, according to the publication’s editor in chief Sabina Slonková, might have contributed to the prime minister’s decision.

“It is not as if we could say, yes, this was the sole reason why Jiří Pospíšil was sacked. But it illustrates why the prime minister lost all trust in Mr Pospíšil. He felt betrayed because the justice minister did not inform him about this.”

Petr Nečas,  photo: CTK
Yet another unconfirmed story making the rounds in the corridors of the lower house says that Jiří Pospíšil himself will face prosecution. According to a report by the business news site motejlek.com, the police are planning to raise charges against Mr Pospíšil over his role in an allegedly overpriced purchase of a detention facility for the country’s prison service.

Whatever the reasons, Mr Nečas’s move is seen as a grave setback for the Civic Democrat party which got rid of one of the most popular and competent members of the government.