Straka withdraws from election race after row over citizenship

Frantisek Straka, photo: CTK

The Czech Republic lost one of the more colourful candidates for the forthcoming parliamentary elections this week, after the Christian Democrats announced that former football manager Frantisek Straka would not be standing for the party in June. Mr Straka, former player and manager at the country's biggest club Sparta Prague, has been withdrawn from the list of candidates after alleged problems over his citizenship.

Frantisek Straka, photo: CTK
Frantisek Straka left Czechoslovakia in 1988 to play for Germany's Moenchengladbach. He later settled in Germany and was granted German citizenship, losing his Czech citizenship in the process. He only returned to this country a few years ago, and only applied for citizenship recently. Czech citizenship is, of course, one of the main requirements for standing as an MP.

The Christian Democrats are claiming that the Czech Interior Ministry effectively prevented Mr Straka from standing. The party had until noon on Tuesday to submit a list of candidates for the elections, and by noon on Tuesday the ministry had still not granted Mr Straka's request for citizenship.

Interior Minister Frantisek Bublan, however, told the media he had personally approved Frantisek Straka's citizenship request on Tuesday morning. What's more, he said, there was no need for Mr Straka to prove he was a Czech citizen until the actual day of the elections. The matter has now descended into a war of words between the Interior Ministry and the Christian Democrats.

Meanwhile Frantisek withdrew his application for citizenship - several hours after the ministry granted it. So whether he's actually a Czech citizen is now a matter of legal interpretation.

It's difficult to estimate the loss of Frantisek Straka to the Christian Democrats. He is no doubt a colourful character, but he was, perhaps, becoming a little too colourful. Recently Mr Straka said in a televised pre-election debate that Vietnamese market traders should "disappear" to save Czech jobs in the West Bohemia region where he's standing. The party scrambled to explain that Mr Straka was not a racist.

The comments were not Mr Straka's first brush with controversy. There were allegations that he was fired from Sparta after being caught taking cocaine. He denied those allegations and threatened to sue the paper that made them. But one thing he doesn't deny is his rather unusual personal hygiene regime - let's just say the razor doesn't stop at his chin.