What does it mean?: Top Czech ex-politician David Rath sentences to 8,5 years in corruption case

Has this case somehow changed Czech Republic? Read few comments by Seán Hanley, Senior Lecturer in East European Politics, University College London.

I think the political impact of the conviction of Rath will be limited. On the balance of the evidence, his conviction did not come as surprise and the level of sentence was not unexpected. The drawn out nature of the trial proceedings– and the fact that appeal proceedings may mean the whole affair is still not at an end – has blunted its political impact. Czech politics has moved on considerably since May 2012 when he was arrested: the Social Democrats have already arguably paid whatever electoral price for corrupt clientelistic practices they are going to pay, given their poor performance in 2013 and the rise of ANO. Corruption is still high on the Czech political agenda.

Moreover, the Czech public has since at least 2008-9 been convinced that politics and politicians, especially at regional level, are corrupt. The Rath case mainly offers us vivid detailed and concrete example of how the rigging of public tenders occurs (although the basic modus operandi have long been known). None of the evidence was surprising, although the specific details of when, where and how corrupt deals are crafted was interesting.

The conviction of Rath also does not offer any particularly new evidence of the ‘emancipation’ or greater independence of the police and prosecutors – we have already had more dramatic evidence of this tendency in 2013 with the raiding of the prime minister’s office, which – although it did not bring major convictions – had a far greater political impact.  Notwithstanding Rath’s own arguments about a ‘political trial’, it is, however, interesting (and positive) that few politicians even on the left take this seriously.

Although, after Ivo Svoboda, Rath is the highest profile Czech politician convicted of corruption – and his case is easily the most spectacular because of the colourful nature of the evidence (the millions in cash in wine box, the bugged conversations etc) – I don’t think it will significantly affect the behaviour of or threaten other politicians: Rath was an unusually incautious politician and the corruption scheme uncovered in the trial relatively unsophisticated one.

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