NEWS

Czech prime minister steps down amid scandal

06/16/2013 06:43 EDT | Updated 08/16/2013 05:12 EDT
From Reuters

Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas was forced to quit on Sunday by a graft and spying scandal involving his closest aide, pitching the European Union member state into a period of uncertainty over who would form the next government.

Under the Czech constitution, the whole government will now have to step down, and there is likely to be horse-trading between the governing coalition, the opposition and the president before a replacement is in place.

Necas quit days after prosecutors charged the head of his office, Jana Nagyova, with bribing members of parliament and ordering intelligence agents to spy on people. One of the surveillance targets, according to lawyers involved in the case, was the prime minister's own wife, whom he is divorcing.

Necas has said he knew nothing about the surveillance, but the charges were so toxic that his coalition partners signalled they could no longer support him.

"I will resign as prime minister tomorrow," Necas told a news conference after a meeting of his Civic Democrat party.

Hopes to form next government

He said his party would try to form a new government, led by a different person, to rule until a scheduled election next year. However, it was unclear if his coalition partners or the President Milos Zeman, would back that.

Two decades ago, Czech dissident Vaclav Havel led a "Velvet Revolution" that overthrew Communist rule and turned his country into a beacon of liberty. But in the years since then, the Czech Republic has been mired in official corruption.

Necas and his administration will stay on as caretakers until a new government is installed. Zeman will have an important say in who takes over. If after three attempts there is no viable government, or the parliament agrees to dissolve itself, an early election will be held.

A lawyer for Nagyova, now in custody, says she denies some of the allegations against her, while on others she argues that she acted in good faith.

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