What sounds more like a Hollywood political spy thriller -- replete with allegations of corruption, illegal intelligence operations and even sex -- has engulfed the government of the Czech Republic and brought down a Prime Minister (who, ironically, was originally voted in on a platform to clean up the government).
But fiction and reality met on Monday, when Petr Necas (formerly dubbed "Mister Clean"), the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, resigned after a raft of serious charges were filed against prominent members of his administration, including a dynamic and attractive woman named Jana Nagyova, who served as his long-time chief of staff, and seven other people, including two former MPs, a former minister and the current and former chiefs of military intelligence. Necas also resigned as chairman of his party, the Civic Democrats.
Nagyova, now under custody, has been accused of abuse of power and corruption – specially, by seeking to bribe three members of parliament with plum jobs in state-controlled companies (in exchange for dropping their opposition to Necas) and of illegally using the military to spy on three civilians, including Necas' estranged wife, Radka Necasova. Armed police raids on a number of government and private offices of people connected to Necas uncovered around $8 million in cash as well as large amount of gold in bank deposits and safes.
Adding spice to the deepening scandal, Czech media has speculated that Necas and Nagyova may be involved in an extra-marital relationship (Necas filed for divorce from his wife just prior to the scandal's unraveling). The Civic Democrats and their coalition partners, despite plunging approval ratings among the public, remains a player in Czech politics – they are now operating a 'caretaker' government until a new cabinet and new Prime Minister are appointed. However, ultimately, the next full-time government will be formed by President Milos Zeman, a leftist who has long opposed Necas and his policies.
But tales of corruption and bribery are nothing new to a Czech public long accustomed to political wrongdoing and a Mafia-like mentality that controls much of the country's business activities. Indeed, influential businessmen are often called "godfathers" and Prague City Hall has been given the nickname of "Mafianske Square." But what distinguishes the current scandal is the seemingly Svengali-like influence that Nagyova had over Necas and his regime – according to media reports, she wielded an extraordinary magnitude of power for someone who was basically an unelected civil servant of humble origins.
Necas even hinted at his relationship with Nagyova when he uncharacteristically declared last Sunday: "I am fully aware of how the twists and turns of my personal life are burdening the Czech political scene." (Prior to his resignation, he vowed that he would not step down and denied all accusations hurled at his underlings). Nagyova has said through her lawyer that she acted "in good faith" while serving the former Prime Minister.
The Mlada fronta Dnes newspaper called this "a political scandal of the highest grade.. This is a logical conclusion to a rather bizarre drama. He [Necas] started as the most promising premier after many years, described at the time as Mr. Clean. Mr. Clean... is now leaving, with a lot of dirt being dished on him, but it has all been done in a rather odd and embarrassing way."
Meanwhile, as more revelations are likely to be unveiled, Prague is in kind of a political limbo – if president Zeman and the various political parties cannot agree on the composition of a new government, parliament would be dissolved, and a snap election may be held sometime this autumn.