A memorable Czech scandal

Among your media intake today, don’t miss the reports on the Czech political scandal, which has now forced the resignation of prime minister Petr Nečas. It’s a classic.

Nečas’s resignation follows the arrest of his chief-of-staff, Jana Nagyova, who is apparently also his mistress, on charges of bribery and corruption. Several former MPs and the head of military intelligence have also been arrested, and the police have seized large quantities of cash and documents plus “tens of kilograms of gold.” Among other things, Nagyova is alleged to have bought off dissident MPs with government jobs and ordered surveillance of her boss’s estranged wife.

No brief summary could do it justice: the BBC reports from Friday and last night are the best, but the Telegraph and the Age also have the story.

The prime minister’s resignation involves the dissolution of the whole government, a three-party centre-right coalition led by the Civic Democratic Party (ODS). The coalition has a narrow majority in parliament and there is a question as to whether the junior partners – which are both more liberal, although still broadly on the centre-right – will accept a new ODS prime minister or would prefer to try their luck with early elections. (Elections are otherwise due in the middle of next year.)

The other wild card is the president, Miloš Zeman, who has to officially make the appointment of a new prime minister. Zeman is not only a political opponent of the ODS, having once led the opposition Social Democrats, but is believed to have inflated ideas of his powers and importance. There is speculation that he could appoint a caretaker prime minister to arrange early elections.

Opinion polls for most of the last couple of years have pointed to an opposition victory when elections are held, in tune with the general swing to the left across the European Union. The events of the last few days certainly won’t have hurt their chances.

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