Corruption Scandal Tests Czech Right Wing Coalition

Conservative prime minister Petr Nečas may be forced to resign, possibly triggering early elections.

Czech prime minister Petr Nečas answers questions from reporters ahead of a European Council meeting in Brussels, November 22, 2012
Czech prime minister Petr Nečas answers questions from reporters ahead of a European Council meeting in Brussels, November 22, 2012 (The Council of the European Union)

The future of Czech prime minister Petr Nečas’ administration hinged on the support of junior coalition partners as of Saturday who said that they were considering whether to stay in government with him after a close aid to Nečas was detained over corruption charges.

A court in the eastern city of Ostrava ordered the detention of Jana Nagyová, who has been in charge of Nečas’ office for years. Prosecutors allege that she bribed politicians and illegally ordered military intelligence agents to conduct surveillance operations. Seven more officials were arrested on Thursday in connection with graft scandals.

Nečas’ own liberal conservatives do not have a majority in parliament. If either of his partners pulls out of the coalition, the government could fall, possibly triggering new elections or forcing President Miloš Zeman to appoint another premier.

TOP 09, a libertarian party led by foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg, who was narrowly defeated by the leftist Zeman in January’s presidential election, and the Liberal Democrats command fifty seats between them in the lower house of parliament. Both have staked their credibility on fighting corruption in a country that has had its fair share of political and business scandals.

Left-wing opposition parties plan to call a confidence vote in parliament. Nečas, whose popularity has suffered as a result of austerity measures that were introduced to keep the Czech Republic’s deficit in line with European fiscal law, dismissed allegations of wrongdoing in a speech to lawmakers on Friday. If any of the ruling parties defect, however, it could be the end for his political career.

It could also be the end for the Central European country’s fiscal consolidation efforts. The opposition Social Democrats, who have held a wide lead in opinion polls for months, vow to repeal spending cuts.

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