What now for Mayors party after major scandal?

Petr Hlubuček (STAN)

After rising to become the third biggest party in the Czech lower house, the Mayors and Independents are now on the ropes. A prominent member in Prague is in custody on corruption charges over a case that has also led to the resignation of the Mayors’ education minister. Can the party recover from this scandal? I spoke to political scientist Miloš Gregor of Masaryk University.

“This is a really big issue for the Mayors and Independents, because they were perceived as a political party which is not connected to corruption, to scandals, and so on prior to the general election last year.

“I can see that this was the main motivation to vote for the Mayors.

“And now, since the election, there are many scandals, many small affairs, connected to them.

“However the corruption scandal in Prague is the biggest one – and it can be perceived as one of the biggest scandals of recent years.”

Some people are saying that [party chairman] Vít Rakušan should step down as interior minister, because his ministry oversees the police, who are investigating this criminal case. Have they got a point? Should he step down as minister?

“This is the paradox when somebody is the head of the Ministry of the Interior.

Vít Rakušan | Photo: Office of Czech Government

“Because if the police is independent, it can observe and discover some causes and scandals, which happened in the case of the Mayors and Independents.

“However, if the minister is putting pressure on the police, there are no scandals which can be seen from the public.

“At least for now, it seems that Vít Rakušan wasn’t involved in any pressure on the police, so far, so calls for him to step down from the ministry are not logical from this perspective.

“But I understand it, because mostly these voices can be heard from the opposition, and it’s the role of the opposition to criticise the government and ministers.”

The Pirate Party, who stood with the Mayors and Independents in elections late last year, have joined the opposition in calling for a special session of the lower house to discuss this scandal. Can we assume that this two-party alliance of the Pirates and the Mayors is now a thing of the past? Is it over?

“I believe that there was no bright future for this alliance, weeks after the general election.

“Because the electoral system and the campaign strategy of the Mayors was not really nice to the Pirates.

“They can’t be in open argument, since they are in the government coalition together.

“However, their own coalition had not future, even before this corruption scandal.

“So I don’t believe that there will be any strong connection between these two parties.

“Even at the municipal elections which are coming in a few months we can see that there are not many cities where the Pirates and the Mayors and Independents are running for office together.”

Pirates and Mayors | Photo: Czech Television

Speaking of the upcoming elections – also there will be Senate elections – do you think that the Mayors can recover by then? Or at any time? Is the party in deep trouble?

“Elections for the Senate are specific, because voters usually decide who to vote for on based on personalities, not so strongly based on party affiliations.

“So if there are personalities who are well known to voters – maybe they are famous, or maybe they are already in the Senate – they can be elected.

“Because people know them and know their work, and maybe they do not connect them so strongly with the Mayors.

“That’s one aspect. Another one is that to be honest [laughs] the elections are in four months, three months, and that’s plenty of time to forget about the scandal and to have other issues or topics, which will be articulated prior to the elections.

“We will see if there are any developments coming from this scandal, or if different topics will be discussed prior to the elections.”