Public Affairs (VV) — the smallest of the three ruling coalition parties — is paying a team to post comments on articles about the party published on the Internet, the party’s former PR manager, Alena Maršálková, told Czech position. Within party circles the team’s members are referred to as the “guerillas” after guerilla marketing. Maršálková’s claim was backed up by VV deserter Jaroslav Škárka.
In a damning secret document meant for the eyes of a select few fellow party members, Public Affairs (VV) de facto leader Vít Bárta, the ex-transport minister at the center of the “cash for loyalty” scandal, promised that those who obtained money for the VV from public tenders and sponsors would get bonuses equal to 20 percent of the funds secured, daily Mladá fronta Dnes reported.
The recent scandal has not hurt voter preference for Public Affairs, according to results of a poll conducted April 7–12 by SANEP, after the “cash for loyalty” scandal broke. One winner in the crisis could be the Christian Democrats, who now hover close to the parliamentary threshold. Extremist parties also saw a boost in support, while the ODS, TOP 09 and both left-wing opposition parties saw slight drops.
Public Affairs (VV) de facto leader Vít Bárta faces criminal complaints for having allegedly bribed VV members to remain loyal — giving Kč 500,000 in cash to MP Kristýna Kočí and Kč 170,000 to MP Jaroslav Škárka (whose clandestinely recorded comments broke the “cash for loyalty” scandal). If, as Bárta claims, the payments were personal loans, has he still violated the law in some way?
Although Transport Minister Vít Bárta — the Public Affairs (VV) paymaster and de facto leader — has stepped down following the “cash for loyalty” scandal, President Václav Klaus said Monday he will not accept any resignations until Prime Minister Petr Nečas presents him with a plan on how a new government will continue. Meanwhile, VV is threatening to vote against the government in a no-confidence motion.
Vít Bárta resigned as transport minister on Friday afternoon, saying that he didn’t want the accusations of corruption against him to damage his party or the functioning of the ruling coalition. PM Petr Nečas promptly accepted Bárta’s resignation and called upon President Václav Klaus to follow suit; nevertheless, Bárta still intends to run for the post of Public Affairs (VV) chairman in May.
The Prague nightclub Abaton is advertising what it claims will be the “roughest party in town” on April 16. Piercing, piercing chains, scarring, branding, hanging on hooks, bondage, fetish S&M, latex, blood, pain, hardcore music… But the posters and flyers are misleading. The roughest party is playing out in Parliament, with Public Affairs (VV) de facto boss Vít Bárta calling the tunes.
Public Affairs (VV) began to fall apart in a very public way on Thursday. Deputy chairwoman and parliamentary group leader Kristýna Kočí was expelled from the party after filing a criminal complaint against Transport Minister Vít Bárta, the party paymaster, that he had given some her some Kč 500,000 in cash, presumably to buy her loyalty. In total, three VV parliamentary deputies have now been expelled from the party in the so-called “cash for loyalty” affair.
Public Affairs was elected to parliament for the first time in the general election last summer on the back of an election campaign based on an anti-corruption crusade and shake-up of the staid and jaded world of Czech politics. However, in the nine months that the party has been in power its top leaders have figured in an unenviable record of controversies and scandals that sometimes appear as a never ending comedy of errors.
The Jaroslav Škárka affair has formed a slippery slide into the depths of political oblivion. The question is who will end up there. After the parliamentary deputies of Public Affairs (VV) expelled him on Tuesday evening for breaking the party’s code of ethics and bringing the party into disrepute, Škárka announced he would present indisputable evidence back his claim that he had received cash payments from Transport Minister Vít Bárta, the VV first deputy chairman.