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.
Civic Democrat (ODS) deputy chairman Pavel Drobil says he will sue or file a criminal complaint against Libor Michálek, the instigator of the corruption charges that forced him to resign as environment minister in December 2010, the Czech news Agency (ČTK) reports.
The Civic Democrats (ODS), although the main partner in the coalition government, have two crucial problems: limited access to the levers of power and a weak party leader, Prime Minister Petr Nečas. Meanwhile, the powerful Ministry of the Interior, which deals with sensitive issues like the ProMoPro and Barták cases, is under the control of Public Affairs (VV) – the smallest party in the coalition.
TOP 09 parliamentary group chairman Petr Gazdík and others within the party have called on Defense Minister Alexandr Vondra (Civic Democrats, ODS) to resign in order to salvage trust in the coalition government. Vondra is under fire for his role in allegedly excessive payments to the audiovisual firm ProMoPro during the Czech EU Presidency and for the recent Military Police raid on Czech Television.
Former head of the State Environmental Fund (SFŽP) Libor Michálek was awarded Kč 500,000 on Wednesday by a newly-founded anti-corruption fund for his exposure of corruption in the Environment Ministry. The other award winner was Ondřej Závodský, a blind lawyer who blew the whistle on the misuse of funds in the Interior Ministry.
Czech Position has been closely following the case of the non-transparent brokerage Key Investments to which three Prague district administrations entrusted hundreds of millions of crowns of public funds. As we reported last week, a distrainment order has been placed on part of the Key Investment’s property. Several of the brokerage’s clients have consequently taken legal steps in an attempt to retrieve their money being managed by the troubled firm.
Representatives of the Prague 6 administration gave positive references about the Key Investments brokerage in which the administrations of Prague 6, 10 and 13 have around Kč 650 million of public funds tied up in portfolios with largely non-liquid assets. Now they deny anything of the sort happened.