Gov’t crisis reignited as John resigns from cabinet

Deputy PM Radek John has announced his resignation from the cabinet, claiming he lacked support for his anti-corruption initiatives

Politics & Policy
Tom Jones | 11.05.2011
Public Affairs (VV) head Radek John says the cabinet cannot continue in its current formation

Radek John, chairman of Public Affairs (VV) — the smallest of the three coalition parties — called a press conference on Wednesday to announce his resignation from his freshly created government post as Deputy Prime Minister for the Fight Against Corruption. The move spurred predictions that the downfall of the coalition government is imminent.

John said he had decided to resign due to lack of genuine support for his anti-corruption initiatives and interference by Prime Minister Petr Nečas (Civic Democrats, ODS) in his appointments to the newly formed anti-corruption office.   

“We also expected a new, functioning and independent anti-corruption office with an independent team, for which I would take full responsibility. … As I said from the beginning, I categorically refuse to allow the Prime Minister to interfere in the selection of my colleagues, or for him to repeatedly cast doubt on them as he has done in recent days, for example, with Mr. [Libor] Michálek and Mr. [Michal] Moroz,” John announced.  

Libor Michálek had exposed embezzlement of money from the State Ecological Fund (SFŽP), controlled by the Environment Ministry, the aim of which allegedly was to channel funds to ODS coffers — and promote the career of then-minister of environment Pavel Drobil (ODS). Michal Moroz is a deputy interior minister, who previously had a private security firm that cooperated with the private security firm ABL, founded by de facto VV chairman and paymaster Vít Bárta, who recently resigned as transport minister.

John was named Deputy Prime Minister for the Fight Against Corruption after being forced to resign as Interior Minister in the wake of allegations of survellance of politicians by ABL and as part of a wider cabinet reshuffle.

Nečas had refused to allow former Moroz to join John’s team precisely on the grounds that he previously had a private security firm which cooperated with Bárta’s ABL. As for whistleblower Michálek, his allegations led to his own dismisal and later to the resignation of Drobil, who observers say is an increasingly powerful figure within the ODS.

Cabinet in crisis, again

Nečas told reporters Wednesday afternoon that he had learnt of John’s decision from the media and had not yet received his resignation in writing. In the wake of the coalition crisis sparked by the revelations about ABL and the “cash for loyalty” allegations against Bárta, the prime minister had insisted he would categorically refuse to allow anyone linked to ABL to occupy important public posts.

After announcing his resignation, John also called upon Nečas to call a meeting of the K9 — the group of leading figures from the three ruling coalition parties — without delay. “I’m absolutely convinced that the current cabinet without changes cannot reliably represent, implement and competently explain to the public the reforms and their significance,” he said Wednesday.      

John’s announcement immediately cast doubts upon the ruling coalition’s ability to reunite and effectively govern following the crisis which began when Public Affairs MPs who have since left the party claimed that Bárta had offered them cash payments in return for their loyalty.

“Of course every minister has the right to resign, but we hope relations between John and the Prime Minister won’t destabilize the coalition even more,” Petr Gadzík, leader of TOP 09’s club of MPs, told the daily Právo. Unsurprisingly, members of the opposition were quick to predict that the fall of the government is inevitable and imminent.     

“The announcement of the resignation of Radek John again lays bare the depth of the coalition and government crisis, which is again paralyzing Czech politics,” first deputy chairman of the opposition center–left Social Democrats (ČSSD), Michal Hašek, told Právo. “The fractured Nečas government doesn’t have any — let alone a strong — mandate for reforms, and its motto for several weeks now is ‘thank you, for each new morning.’ Petr Nečas should admit as much, apologize to the citizens of the Czech Republic and leave.”

John on Wednesday called upon Nečas to pass his notice of resignation to President Václav Klaus without delay, adding that he would welcome the opportunity to explain his reasons to the president in person. Klaus was informed of John’s decision when on his way back from the UK and agreed to a meeting later in the day; following their closed-doors meeting at Prague Castle both declined to speak to the press.        

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