Supreme Court decision will weaken trust in democratic politics, says analyst Jiří Pehe

Jiří Pehe, photo: Šárka Ševčíková

Tuesday’s Supreme Court decision, which confirmed immunity for three former Civic Democratic MPs securing their freedom from prosecution for deals made while in parliament, has not only raised serious doubts over one of the biggest corruptions cases in Czech history, but also over the ability of local prosecutors to effectively fight corruption. We spoke to political analyst and commentator Jiří Pehe about what implications this situation will have for the Czech political scene.

Petr Tluchoř,  photo: CTK
“The decision of the Supreme Court is unfortunate in several ways. First, it prevents the prosecutors from bringing this case of the three [former] deputies of the Civic Democratic party to court, which could authoritatively decide whether this kind of behavior is criminal, whether it’s corruption, which I think would be very good for Czech democracy.

“It is also slightly absurd on two other levels. First, I think this is the kind of question which should be decided by the Constitutional Court, because quite frankly the extent of immunity of deputies is a constitutional question.

“And then another problem, I think, is that now we have people who organized the corrupt activites for these deputies and some of them do not have immunity; for example, Mrs. Jana Nagyová. So, will she be tried and sentenced for organizing corruption for which the three deputies will not be sentenced? That’s slightly absurd and I think this will definitely it will further weaken the trust of Czech citizens in political democracy.”

Jiří Pehe,  photo: Šárka Ševčíková
It also now seems that Petr Nečas, who is directly involved in this case as well, will most likely not stand trial either. At the same time, under Mr. Nečas there were great strides made in the fight against corruption. Do you think that this Supreme Court decision will serve as a setback in these efforts?

“Definitely, this decision may slow down the efforts of the state attorneys and the police in fighting corruption, which would be a pity, simply because I think that if the government of Petr Nečas has managed to do anything that should be remembered, it is indeed untying the hands of the prosecutors and the police, at least in some ways.

“It is, of course, also not helpful that Mr. Nečas himself and people from his party keep attacking prosecutors for initiating the prosecution of the three deputies and Mrs. Nagyová. I think that this is something that really doesn’t help the efforts of the Czech judiciary to fight corruption.”

And I guess this will also show the general public that high politics in this country is reserved for a specific type of people, and that might have an effect on political participation…

Jana Nagyová,  photo: CTK
“I think that the development of this corruption case is really very unfortunate in many ways, because in the end if it will achieve anything, in my opinion, it will be further alienation of people from politics. Because people will see that people whose behavior, in the opinion of the majority of the public, can be seen as corruption, such people cannot be punished for procedural reasons, so to speak; that in the end they escape prosecution and possible punishment only because they are politicians, they are members of this privileged cast. And that is certainly something that will be seen in a very negative light by most people and, in my opinion, will further weaken the confidence of the public in democratic politics.”