Czech Premier to Resign Amid Scandal

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PARIS -- Prime Minister Petr Necas of the Czech Republic said Sunday that he would resign, following a corruption scandal involving a senior aide. The resignation, which he said he would submit Monday, plunged the country into a period of political uncertainty.

Speaking at a news conference in Prague, the Czech capital, Mr. Necas said he would also resign as chairman of his party, the center-right Civic Democrats.

On Friday, Czech prosecutors said they had charged several people, including Jana Nagyova, the prime minister's chief of staff, and the current and former heads of military intelligence, in the most extensive anticorruption operation since the end of Communism. Ms. Nagyova was charged with abuse of power and bribery after prosecutors said she ordered a military intelligence agency to spy on three people. The Czech news media reported that they included Mr. Necas's wife, Radka Necasova. Mr. Necas said last week that he and his wife were divorcing.

Mr. Necas had initially reacted to the scandal with defiance, saying that he had nothing to do with any illegal surveillance operation and that he would not step down. But analysts said that having so close an aide ensnared in the scandal made it untenable for him to stay on. The opposition planned a vote of no confidence in Parliament on Tuesday, and it was unclear whether he could retain the backing of his coalition partners.

Mr. Necas said his party would try to form a new government, with a new prime minister, to serve until elections next year. It was not clear whether President Milos Zeman, a political rival of Mr. Necas who has the power to choose who will try to form the next government, would agree to that course.

After the Velvet Revolution of 1989 and the peaceful division of the former Czechoslovakia into separate Czech and Slovak states in 1993, the Czech Republic and its first president, Vaclav Havel, were seen as a potent symbol of the triumph of democracy and freedom in the face of authoritarianism. But since then the country has been plagued by a culture of graft and lawlessness, the legacy of decades of Communist rule. Crony capitalism also took root during the privatizations of state assets in the 1990s, when the lines between government and corporate interests became blurred.

Miroslav Mares, a security expert at Masaryk University in Brno, said the latest scandal threatened to erode the confidence that important allies, including the United States, have in the Czechs.

"The affair will certainly raise question marks about the trustworthiness of our military intelligence," Mr. Mares said, "since the intelligence department may have been used for personal reasons that seem to belong in gossip columns."

Hana de Goeij contributed reporting from Prague.

world

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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