Nevertheless, Rath is a highly capable and ambitious man and would be unlikely to allow himself to be pushed to the sidelines at the next party conference. It’s a cruel thing to say openly in his situation, but there are quite a few people at the top of the social democrats who would be happy to see Rath serving a term. But will this bring an end to Rath-related problems? Best not to bet on it.
The chairwoman of the Chamber of Deputies, Miroslava Němcová (ODS), now has a problem. At around 11:00 p.m. on May 14 she gave her consent to Rath’s arrest and the next day handed over the police file to the Mandate and Immunity Committee chaired by, Sobotka, the ČSSD leader. Němcová was amazed that he only showed an interest in the file on May 16 and that instead of studying it on the premises of the Chamber of Deputies, as is customary, the file ended up in Lidový dům. But it was addressed to Sobotka, came the response, though this is a poor excuse.
The recommendation for the meeting of Parliament, which begins on June 5 and will either confirm Němcová’s actions or will rule out Rath being prosecuted in this matter for good, will not be given by Bohuslav Sobotka, but by the Mandate and Immunity Committee. However, it is not difficult to work out why the file found its way to Lidový dům. There it can be studied by the legal experts of the ČSSD, whereas in the Chamber of Deputies it would be inaccessible to most of them. However, one thing needs to be pointed out: if this institution had rules governing its files, like most other offices, the file on Rath’s case would probably have lain in the safe of the committee and not travelled anywhere.
Another problem that Němcová might face relates to the possibility that the accused (and, as the case may be, convicted) Rath might wish to participate in the meeting of the Czech of Deputies and the committees on which he sits. Some constitutional lawyers claim that this is out of the question. However, at the time that Jiří Čunek, a senator for the Christian Democrats (KDU-ČSL), was prosecuted, others said the opposite and warned of the loophole in the Constitution and the rules of procedure of the chambers of parliament.
In a special statement, Němcová claimed that Rath could not address such a request to her. Instead his participation in meetings of parliament would be a matter for the courts, the state attorney’s office, the police and the prison service. At the same time the police would apparently have to accompany Rath to parliament and guard him in the meeting room, which would not be without its problems. Němcová says this is only a theoretical possibility because if Rath were able to speak to the microphone during such a meeting, this could involve influencing witnesses and parties to the criminal proceedings and would be at odds with the reason he is being held on remand.
The meeting of the Mandate and Immunity Committee which will discuss the Rath case will be a simpler matter. According to Němcová either Rath’s lawyer may participate, or the committee could visit Rath in prison and hear his testimony there. Unfortunately, the chairwoman of the Chamber of Deputies did not cite any legal opinion in her Wednesday morning statement. She might certainly have consulted constitutional specialists and must have requested the opinion of parliamentary legislators, but it is unlikely she could have managed more in the short time from Rath’s arrest.
However, only the courts are authorised to interpret the law, including the rules of procedure of the Chamber of Deputies, not to speak of the Constitution. And because it is not written in the Constitution that being taken into remand or even being convicted restricts or dissolves an MP’s mandate, in the case of the dynamic Rath it is quite possible to imagine that he will express an interest in participating at the meeting of the Chamber of Deputies.
If Rath acts in character, as an experienced showman he would not want to pass up a great opportunity to command the centre stage. And if he is stubborn, Němcová’s appeal to the ČSSD to persuade him to surrender his mandate as MP will fall on deaf ears. Because Rath undoubtedly well knows (and in any case it is written in the Constitution), that the mandate belongs to an MP and not a party, and that a party’s wishes are not decisive for an MP.