State Attorney’s office asks for outgoing PM to be stripped of immunity

Petr Nečas, photo: CTK

Just three weeks after the collapse of his government, outgoing PM Petr Nečas faces criminal prosecution. The high state attorney’s office on Monday asked the lower house to strip Mr. Nečas of his parliamentary immunity, so that he can be charged with alleged corruption, one of the causes behind the fall of his cabinet. While his own party is sticking behind the embattled former government leader, the opposition Social Democrats want to allow the police to do their job.

Petr Nečas,  photo: CTK
The scandal that broke in mid-June, resulting in the arrest of eight public officials and eventually the demise of the centre-right Czech government, now directly threatens the outgoing Prime Minister Nečas himself. The Olomouc High State Attorney, Ivo Ištvan, has submitted a request to the lower house to strip Mr. Nečas of his constitutionally-secured immunity from prosecution.

The former leader of the Civic Democrats is suspected of offering high-ranking positions at state-run companies to three of his party’s MPs in return for their resignations which helped secure the passage of a government-proposed bill. The attorney believes this constituted corruption.

In a written statement, Mr. Nečas rejected the claim, and denied that such a barter ever took place at all. Political agreements, according to the former premier, cannot be deemed as criminal acts.

Miroslav Kalousek,  photo: CTK
Leaders of two of the former coalition parties – the Civic Democrats and TOP 09 – are so far unwilling to give Mr. Nečas up, saying the justice machine is meddling in common political practices.

TOP 09 deputy chairman, Miroslav Kalousek, believes the constitutional right of the parliament to decide whether a politician can be put on trial is there for a reason.

“In my opinion, this is a typical situation where the Chamber of Deputies should tell the state attorney – you are criminalizing something, which does not concern you at all. I will be voting with this in mind, though I don’t know how colleagues from my party will vote.”

For the outgoing coalition the request to prosecute Petr Nečas may also serve as a threat of gloomy times to come. Miroslav Kalousek himself has already been questioned in connection with the case, since he was the one who actually appointed two of the three MPs to the lucrative posts, and an investigation into his actions is not off the table.

The opposition Social Democrats are saying the outgoing prime minister should allow the judicial process to run its course and submit his own request to be stripped of immunity. Senator and Social Democratic deputy chairwoman Alena Gajdůšková:

Alena Gajdůšková,  photo: Jana Šustová
“As a member of parliament, as still one of the highest public officials in the country, Mr. Nečas should give a clear sign to the public that we are all equal in the eyes of the law.”

The mandate and immunity committee of the lower house is meeting next week to review the attorney’s request, and will invite Petr Nečas to explain his side of the story. But the earliest actual vote on the floor on whether he will be stripped of his immunity will most likely not take place until parliament is back in session in mid-September.