Junior party threatens to quit Czech gov’t over ‘putsch’

Deputy leader of junior coalition member Public Affairs (VV) to formally propose quitting the government; threatens to quit party  

Tom Jones 30.3.2012

Tomáš Jarolím speaking on Czech Television on Thursday evening foto: Česká televizeČeská pozice

Tomáš Jarolím speaking on Czech Television on Thursday evening

Tomáš Jarolím, deputy chairman of Public Affairs (VV), the smallest party in the governing coalition, has said he will file a motion to the party’s leadership (gremium) to quit the center-right government. VV’s gremium is to hold an extraordinary meeting on April 3 to discuss the impact of a recording made by party defector MP Kristýna Kočí showing she had bargained with other coalition parties for her allegiance.

“It was me who said first that I will call for us to leave the coalition and quit that company of people who behave in such a manner,” Jarolím said in an interview on Czech Television (ČT) on Thursday evening, adding he would “seriously consider” resigning as deputy party leader for the government’s anti-corruption strategy if his proposal were not discussed.

 

The fragile tri-party coalition has been plunged into a crisis over the surreptitious tape recording made public on Thursday of a conversation between Kočí (unaffiliated) and Minister of Regional Development Kamil Jankovský (VV) in which she claims to have held negotiations with leading figures of the larger two center-right coalition parties, the Civic Democrats (ODS) and TOP 09, about selling her party loyalty.

The VV’s gremium is to discuss how to respond to the secret recording made by Kočí. Party chairman Radek John said the revelations on the tape had caused a crisis of trust within VV, and that the two larger coalition parties had essentially attempted to undermine the will of the electorate by offering money to it members to defect to them. John described the alleged attempt to buy VV MPs’ loyalty as an attempted “putsch.” 

The party said it wanted to believe that the ‘auctioneering’ for VV’s MPs to switch allegiance was the initiative of just a small group of individualNevertheless, a number of commentators have said it is unlikely VV will decide to quit the coalition. In a statement issued following Thursday’s meeting of its executive council, the party said it wanted to believe that the “auctioneering” for VV’s MPs to switch allegiance was the initiative of just a small group of individuals.

“I think that at this moment we need to calm our emotions and calmly speak our minds with our coalition partners in the government. Ultimatums are not a solution,” VV deputy leader and deputy prime minister for anti-corruption strategy Karolína Peake told the news server Aktuálně.cz.  

‘Cash for loyalty’

Kočí is thought to have recorded her conversation with Jankovský shortly before she filed a criminal complaint against Vít Bárta, known as VV’s de facto leader, for allegedly offering her a Kč 500,000 cash bribe to remain loyal to him after which she resigned from the party.

Bárta doesn’t deny handing Kočí that amount of cash, which she passed to the police, but claims it was a personal loan. Hearings in the trial of Bárta on corruption charges are due to resume next week.  

In the 2010 parliamentary elections, Public Affairs won 24 seats in the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house. Following the “cash for loyalty” scandal in April 2011, MPs Jaroslav Škárka and Stanislav Huml quit the party along with Kočí. None of these three have joined the ODS or TOP 09. With a total of 115 mandates in the 200-seat lower house, Public Affairs’ participation in the coalition is essential for it to maintain a majority.