prague for webCzech political update by Tanweer Ali.

As you may have heard, the Czech Prime Minister, Petr Necas, resigned earlier this week after a scandal which has lasted a few days. He will remain in office in a caretaker role until a new government is sworn in.

Last Wednesday evening Necas’ chief of staff Jana Nagyova, along with several other people, was arrested by the police on suspicion of bribery and of illegally placing three people under surveillance, including Necas’ wife. Nagyova remains in custody. Last week Necas, a father of four from the arch-conservative Catholic wing of the centre-right Civic Democratic Party, announced that he and his wife were seeking a divorce. Moreover it has long been an open secret in Prague that Necas’ relationship with Nagyova extended beyond the strictly professional. In addition to resigning as Prime Minister, Necas has also resigned as leader of the Civic Democratic Party. His resignation came after the coalition partners in his three-party centre-right coalition withdrew their support – when the scandal first broke Necas tried to hang on in office. Though he will remain an MP until the next election, Necas has now made it clear that his political career is essentially over.

In the coming days the shape of the next government will become clear. Necas’ party want to reform the coalition under a new leader, though there is no obvious successor. The opposition Social Democrats are demanding an early general election. It is possible that an interim government will be formed ahead of an election later this year. The next scheduled elections are due in May 2014. A lot will now depend on the will of the governing parties to hang on in office. After three years of harsh austerity policies which have seen a worsening social situation and a deep recession, the governing parties are likely to suffer heavy losses at the polls. A key role will also be played by the new president, the hard-drinking former prime minister Milos Zeman.

Despite the extent of the scandal, it is very positive that the police in the Czech Republic feel empowered to investigate and arrest high-level political figures. The latest news continues a trend in the last couple of years, which has seen tougher police action on political corruption.

If you want a conspiracy theory (rather unlikely in my view) this is all a plot by former president Vaclav Klaus to stage a dramatic comeback, returning to high office as Prime Minister, a post he vacated in 1997 amidst a party funding scandal…

Tanweer Ali is a member of Labour International, co-convenor of Labour Friends of the Czech Republic, lives in Praque and is a regular at Labour Party Annual Conference