So the Czech prime minister was forced to resign after a graft and spying scandal involving his closest aide. Armed police officers stormed into a government building last week and arrested a few people right there, shortly after the government session ended. Unlike many of his predecessors, Petr Necas didn’t try to stop the investigators or discredit them publicly.
According to witnesses, after the charges against his aide had been presented to him, Necas simply said, “Do your job.” And that’s the paradox – one of the least gangster-like prime ministers in the post-communist era steps down after the whole country watched lawmen in black masks lead his chief of staff to a car with cuffs on her wrists.
This is not to diminish the case. The charges against Jana Nagyova are serious. According to prosecutors, the prime minister’s top aide ordered intelligence agents to spy on people – among them Radka Necasova, the prime minister’s wife – and bribed former members of parliament to back the government during a confidence vote last year. It only adds a Hollywood touch to the whole story that Nagyova is the girlfriend of Necas, who is filing for divorce from Necasova.
Let’s put this scandal in some context.
The Czech Republic faces the longest recession in modern history and is weathering the worst economic downturn in Central Europe, save for Hungary’s. The government has cut spending so harshly as to almost suffocate the economy. Social ghettos in remote Czech towns threaten to erupt into massive civil unrest along race lines, with “white” Czechs marching almost weekly against the Roma, while the government simply looks on.
Necas’ europhobic Civic Democrats, the governing party, navigated the country out of the mainstream of European politics and pleaded for the British to be our allies – which led nowhere. Criticism of human rights violations is dismissed as “naive pussyriotism” by most politicians, and the newly elected president has started to bypass the constitution so that he can rule as he pleases, with the government’s resignation offering a perfect opportunity to impose his will.
Add to the mix the fact that the investigation of Nagyova included some well-known political lobbyists, aptly nicknamed “godfathers” – though none of them was arrested or paraded in handcuffs, unlike the prime minister’s lover and three former lawmakers. And you’re telling me that Necas’ jealous girlfriend spying on her female rival is the country’s biggest problem?
But it may all turn out fine. It is still possible that last week’s drama and its political consequences are a mere prelude to the main event. Only Monday the police raided the house of a top Prague lawyer who works as an official adviser to two ministers and is believed to be a longtime “work partner” and ally of Ivo Rittig, one of the godfathers summoned for a questioning by the police last week. That is very promising.
So it may be that Necas makes it into history as rather unhappy but still a hero – despite possibly facing charges himself because he allegedly knew about some of the abuses of which Nagyova stands accused. It was he who wrested the police and the justice system from the deadly grasp of politicians. For far too many years the major affairs of ruling forces were left untouched because prosecutors and detectives were puppets in their hands.
As prime minister, Necas, after some hesitation due to opposition in his own party, decided to appoint a young, energetic attorney as chief prosecutor and then kept his hands off the prosecutor’s office. The same went for the police – he left it for the minister of interior, himself a former top detective, to clean house and get rid of the politicians’ lackeys.
What we’re witnessing now is probably the very fruit of the liberation of the two security components of the state.
Thank you, Mr. Necas, and goodbye.