Czech Republic: Scandal threatens PM’s party

26 March 2012
Presseurop
Hospodářské Noviny

, 26 March 2012

“The Janoušek system, the era when anything was possible”, leads Hospodářské Noviny after news broke of a scandal that, according to the Czech daily, “could wipe out the entire ODS” – the Civic Democratic Party, the oldest formation of the Czech right. Among its members is the current Prime Minister, Petr Nečas.

The scandal involves the influential and controversial businessman and lobbyist Roman Janoušek and ODS politician Pavel Bém, whose telephone conversations were recorded in 2007 while he was mayor of Prague. Obtained two years later by the anti-corruption politician Vít Bárta, the wiretaps are being scrutinised by the police. Published in the media, they have exposed the enormous influence Janoušek wielded over the Prague mayor.

“The web of relationships they built up around themselves was not limited solely to the Czech capital, but played a major role in the privatisation of the country in the 2000s,” notes Hospodářské Noviny. The newspaper even compares the action of the two men to that of Mafia clans that divvy up business turf in the The Godfather.

Following the media publication of the conversations between Bém and Janoušek, the latter was in a car accident. Escaping the scene, he knocked down the other driver, a woman aged 51. When he was arrested by the police minutes later, Janoušek had 2.2 g of alcohol in his blood.

“It's a sad movie about the former mayor and the lobbyist. Their story goes beyond any scenario we could dream up,” writes Slovak daily SME. According to the Bratislava paper, the Bém-Janoušek scandal is a Czech version of “Gorilla” scandal that brought down Slovakia’s conservatives in the most recent elections.