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July 11, 2014

MfD: Era of Czech shady operators ends

The list of “godfathers” in political parties has greatly diminished

Prague, July 11 (ČTK) — The death of Roman Houska, a shady operator of the Czech Social Democrats (ČSSD), allegedly motivated by political or business interests, has closed one era and the really mighty are claiming their portion of power now, Miroslav Korecký writes in daily Mladá fronta Dnes (MfD) today.

He writes that society has got used to that ČSSD sponsors are shot dead from time to time, former communist StB secret service agents shoot at fairground operators at parties, ministerial secretaries organize murders of journalists and influential lobbyists strangely fall down from hides.

Houska’s fate, though not yet fully clear, is interesting more from the point of view of the falling dusk of Czech shady dealers, also referred to as Godfathers, as a sovereign group of society, Korecký writes.

He writes that long before Houska, another north Bohemian dealer Petr Benda has been pushed to the political periphery, following former ČSSD head and prime minister Jiří Paroubek.

Former Ústí Region deputy governor and businessman Pavel Kouda has ended in police handcuffs just as north Moravian boss Martin Dědic, accused of corruption. Former Central Bohemian governor David Rath is waiting for a court verdict for the same crime, Korecký writes.

He writes that the other “Godfathers'” nest, the former senior government Civic Democratic Party (ODS), also reports big losses. Ivo Rittig has been charged with money laundering, former senator Alexander Novak is already serving a sentence for corruption, Korecký writes.

Roman Janoušek may also be sent to prison for a traffic accident, another Prague backstage player Tomáš Hrdlička has been expelled from the party, north Bohemian dealer Patrik Oulický has left the party by himself and south Bohemian “prince of Hluboka” Pavel Dlouhý and west Bohemian Roman Jurečko have at least left the party’s broader leadership, Korecký writes.

The decimated ODS is now lost for medium- and large-sized shady dealers, while new top political arrivals are more threatened now, Korecký writes.

He writes that when ČSSD chairman Bohuslav Sobotka became prime minister (in January), his alter ego, the influential Prague lawyer and lobbyist Radek Pokorný, has got to the forefront and the ČSSD’s controversial players Karel Březina and Petr Hulinský are again rising in the party.

The Christian Democrats’ (KDU-ČSL) return to the government has boosted their sponsor, developer Luděk Sekyra, Korecký writes.

He writes that shady dealers have been genetically connected with Czech political parties, minimally since the country was administratively divided into 14 regions at the turn of century.

Every party is now in fact created by 14 small parties with their own interests, strong regional bosses and befriended businesspeople behind the scenes. Their primary interests are public orders and European subsidies, to which they can reach through their ties with politicians, Korecký writes.

If a party chairman wants to push through something, he cannot do without agreement with regional chiefs and shady dealers, Korecký writes.

He writes that Petr Fiala, chairman of the ODS that is battling for its survival, has a unique chance to change this and break up the well-established model.

He writes that a soft version of Fiala’s effort is Sobotka’s attempt to mar the sovereignty of ČSSD regional leaders via a party referendum.

Irrespective of the result of Fiala and Sobotka’s effort, the system of shady leaders or “Godfathers” is changing by itself. The era of political businesspeople, such as Janousek or Rittig, is evidently ending and those who are really mighty are claiming their portion of influence, Korecký writes.

He writes that these are people who are concluding deals worth billions of crowns, not people who are taking a few hellers [one 100th of the crown] from every metro ticket, Korecký writes, alluding to Rittig.

Czech billionaires gave a free hand to their poorer colleagues with dozens or hundreds of millions of crowns on their accounts. But they have lost patience with the latter as soon as they started to threaten their own interests, Korecký writes.

Now, they want to influence politicians and the direction of the state themselves, whether overtly like ANO head and Finance Minister Andrej Babis, or more covertly, Korecký writes.

He adds that it is to be only seen whether this will be better for people compared with the era of Roman Houska.

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