Current Affairs Blackmail and entrapment affair rocks governing party

09-09-2008 16:02 | Ian Willoughby

The Czech political scene is currently witnessing one of its strangest affairs in some time. An MP from the ruling Civic Democrats has just resigned after buying what appeared to be compromising photos of a rebel party colleague. Meanwhile, the latter is being slammed for entrapment - and facing calls for his own demise.

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Jan Morava, photo: CTKJan Morava, photo: CTK Few had heard of Jan Morava at national level a week ago. Now, however, the 29-year-old is all over the media, after stepping down as an MP for the ruling Civic Democrats on Monday. Mr Morava’s demise followed revelations that he had been duped into buying staged photos of fellow Civic Democrat MP Vlastimil Tlustý carousing with a blonde. He apparently hoped to use the pictures to blackmail Mr Tlustý, a thorn in the side of the party leadership and a personal rival at regional level.

But the country’s youngest MP didn’t stop there. Mr Morava also befriended the daughter of Olga Zubová, a rebel MP from the smallest party in government, the Greens. It appears he aimed somehow to use information about the daughter as a way to blackmail Zubová too.

When all of this came to light at the end of last week Jan Morava appeared before the media dabbing tears from his eyes, saying he had been naively trying to impress his superiors and playing James Bond.

Photo: Hospodářské noviny, 8.9.08Photo: Hospodářské noviny, 8.9.08 He also said he had informed two senior Civic Democrat figures about the pictures: one, he said, told him they already had such material; the other asked if they were being sold individually or as a job-lot.

For his part Vlastimil Tlustý, says he has repeatedly come under attack and was merely trying to flush out his enemies when he agreed to take part in the whole charade. The sting was the idea of a reporter from the tabloid station TV Nova; posing as a private detective, he filmed Jan Morava buying the “compromising” photos of Mr Tlustý. That report was broadcast on Sunday night.

Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek has described Mr Morava as a victim, albeit one who behaved unforgivably, and has turned his guns squarely on Mr Tlustý. The prime minister has raged against the latter’s alleged unethical behaviour in taking part in such a sting and demanded he resign, a call echoed by several senior Civic Democrats.

Vlastimil TlustýVlastimil Tlustý But Vlastimil Tlustý says he has no intention of quitting. And given the government’s slim majority, he could cause his party’s leadership real problems – two of his supporters are threatening to back the opposition in a no-confidence vote later this year, following regional and Senate elections.

I discussed the affair with the political scientist Vladimíra Dvořáková, and began by asking her if Vlastimil Tlustý, like Jan Morava, should resign as an MP.

“I think there is not only a problem with Vlastimil Tlustý, who somehow participated in this very specific game. It’s also a question of the other members of the party, people in high positions, who probably were informed, according to reports, that someone was trying to get materials by which a member of parliament can be blackmailed.

“And no-one informed the police or the security services or something like that. This is something that’s extremely surprising to me, because this is very, very dangerous for any democratic system. No-one informed the police that something like that was happening. And this says something about the atmosphere in politics in the Czech Republic.”

What do you think it means for the future, for the near future, in Czech politics, with the Social Democrats calling for a vote of no-confidence and Mr Tlustý’s supporters maybe not going to vote with the government?

“We shall see what the situation is after the regional elections – they plan to [put forward such a vote] only after the regional elections. I think the [Civic Democrats] could be really strongly divided. It’s not only a question of the people who supported Tlustý before and support him now.

“There could be a lot of other MPs that don’t like these practices and they don’t like the fact something like that is connected with the party, that the leaders of the party regard…it looks like they regard it as normal behaviour. Or that a young member of the party regards something like that as normal behaviour that can help in his career, or something like that.

“So we’ll see what will be the result of the conflict inside the party, because it’s a deep crisis of the Civic Democrats and maybe it can be a deep crisis for the whole coalition.”

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