Czech PM Necas to resign: What is the legacy of Mr. Clean

Read few comments by Sean HanleySenior Lecturer in East European Politics, University College London.

1. Necas was dubbed Mr. Clean. What preceded to his resignation is, of course, serious but it also reads a bit like a soap opera. So what happened to Mr. Clean in your opinion? Is he more of a active “villain” or more or less just another character from Czech political soap opera

Politics in all countries has elements of a drama or soap opera – it’s not for nothing that people speak of a ‘political stage ‘. Necas, I think, may be remembered as as a victim morebthan villain villain. He is clearly a villain in some ways. He obviously has responsibility for what his chef de cabinet did even if he didn’t know about it and it seems inconceivable that he was unaware that the jobs offered to the former rebel deputies were a trafika. It is even possible he could face corruption charges himself if the courts decide that the longstanding practice of trafika is actually illegal.

That said, so far  it seems that Necas did not in any way enrich himself and that a primary motivation for what was done – notwithstanding Ms Nagyova’s as yet unclear ‘personal motivations’ – was political: to keep an unstable unfaltering government in office. Moreover as Necas pointed out, trafika deals have been a common way for all parties to shore up their power, so in some ways the whole political system will be on trial not just Nagyova a spol.

In broader perspective, Necas seems to have been  a serious, able and personally uncorrupt politician with some genuinely reformist intentions, who was unable to reform the corrupt political system of which he was part and ended up using  – or letting others used -some of its well-established questionable techniques to ensure his own government’s survival.

In this respect, he is perhaps an emblematic figure whose career – and fall from power  tell us a lot about the Czech political system and certainly not just another minor character in the Czech political soap opera.

If anything, his government is perhaps more of a tragedy  than a melodrama – in some ways Necas can be seen as doomed from the very outset of his government. He had a weak position in a discredited party and a coalition ally (VV) that was bound quickly to implode.

2. Overwhelming majority of Czech does not like Necas’s government. What will be the legacy of his cabinet and also his?

I think it will mainly be remembered for having successfully implemented austerity measures and pension reform legislation despite its rapidly deteriorating position. The left-wing politicians who seem likely to form a first government made secretly be believed that they didn’t not have to implement all of these.

Necas may initially be a scapegoat for all the failings of ODS and the wider Czech political system and face a lot of recriminations  from across the political spectrum, especially if he personally is investigated or charged, but – for the reasons mentioned above – but I think in time he may be seen as a kind of ‘Gorbachev of ODS’: a flawed but relatively honest politician with reformist intentions caught up in a system he could not change  overtaken by a crisis he could not manage.

3. What would  be the best political solution for Czech Rep. right now in your opinion. Another ODS-TOP 09-LIDEM gov, the caretaker gov or the early election as soon as possible?

I think the best (or least bad) option would be to hold new elections in the next 2-3 months. Any other solution – whether a continuation of the current minority coalition under a different prime minister or a technocratic caretaker government – risks being a period of uncertainty and political drift. While politicians on the right understandably want to complete a full term in office and continue with policies of ‘budgetary responsibility’, and they too should perhaps  might realistically be  accept that with a weak mandate and uncertain majority they would achieve little of this. Czech right-wing parties badly need to regroup and renew themselves which can only be done in opposition. Czech democracy needs both a strong and credible centre right and centre left.


One Response

  1. Insightful comments, as I’d expect. In many ways this is a classic example of just how painful and complex trying to combat corruption can be. Once you unleash the prosecutors, you lose the ability to protect your own cohorts and by definition the government is the main locus of corruption. Very few leaders are able to push (genuine, non-political) anti-corruption measures forward and not be consumed or damaged in the process. Given that Nečas was not a moron and must have understood at least in general terms if not detail the level of corruption within the ODS, I agree that he deserves credit for his initiatives on this.

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