Jan Macháček

Hledání

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Czech Business Weekly

A new phenomenon: political resignations

04. 07. 2005
The mayor of Prague 4, Zdeněk Hovorka (Civic Democrats or ODS), recently tendered his resignation to Prague Mayor Pavel Bém.

Hovorka had come under pressure from the media and the ODS leadership to explain how he had financed his luxurious apartment in Prague 4, for which he paid Kč 8.5 million.
Hovorka avoided giving any explanation, then said something about selling family-owned paintings but offered no specifics. A few days later, he gave up and submitted his resignation, in which he stated — predictably — that his resignation had nothing to do with the flat controversy.

Days before, long-serving Czech police chief Jiří Kolař resigned after it was revealed that billionaire Radovan Krejčíř, suspected of fraud, had escaped custody after special police units spectacularly raided his house.

A few weeks before the Kolař debacle we saw the resignation of Miloslav Platil, the top man at the police’s anti-corruption unit, after it was revealed he had taken large personal loans from one Petr Mach, an ex-convict who was involved in dubious financial deals in the 1990s and who faces new criminal charges.

At the start of the year, we witnessed the most prominent resignation, that of Prime Minister Stanislav Gross, after he could not account for the financing of his luxury flat and as questions arose regarding the entrepreneurial activities of his wife. Gross resisted the ferocious media campaign against him for a couple of months but then he, too, gave up.

Less than a year ago, resignations were virtually unheard-of in Czech politics. No matter what the media revealed, no matter how strong the evidence was against those alleged of misdeeds, nothing happened. But now, something has changed. Are we simply moving closer to Western political culture?

What is more probable is that, as we look ahead to elections next year, the reasons for this chain of resignations are more or less pragmatic. Even so, a housecleaning in high-level politics and bureaucracy is a good thing and a welcome reversal.

There are two basic tools for political housecleaning in a democracy. First, there is the counterbalance of an active and visible opposition. Secondly, there is the ardent longing of politicians (and parties) to get re-elected. These days we see dangerous examples of Czech politicians who have lost their ambition or any hopes of getting re-elected. Justice Minister Pavel Nemec of the moribund Freedom Union is the best example.

Nevertheless, in the interest of accountability, such resignations should happen swiftly and smoothly. And those resigning should not automatically deny that their resignations have anything to do with their current difficulties, a claim that often sounds absurd. Finally, we should be witnessing resignations throughout the electoral cycle, not just in the years before elections.

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