On Tuesday, the Social Democrat deputy leader Michal Hašek was asked in a live broadcast whether a secret meeting had taken place between himself, several other Social Democrats and President Zeman (ahead of an attempt to oust party leader Bohuslav Sobotka). Mr Hašek replied that no such meeting took place. But now he has admitted the truth: that he lied.
I spoke to political analyst Jiří Pehe about Mr Hašek’s admission and its ramifications.
“There may be meetings that are supposed to be ‘secret’ but if someone comes out and says the meeting took place and Mr Hašek is asked on live television and he says ‘No’ and denies it, then he lied. He lied. The second series of serious questions that needs to be asked is ‘What business does the president have trying to influence the inner-workings of a political party?’ or to try and oust a legitimately-elected chairman? These are very serious questions and they implicate the president as well.”
Mr Hašek stopped well short of saying Mr Sobotka’s future was even discussed... Can we believe that he and fellow rebels and the president talked about anything else?
“I think Mr Hašek is lying again. Why else would that meeting be held? Why would Mr Hašek and his allies try and oust the party leader less than 24 hours later? Is he trying to suggest it was all a coincidence? I don’t think there is anyone who could believe it and I think he has been seriously damaged.”
One of the deputy leaders, Milan Chovanec, the first to admit to the meeting, said those leaders who lied should step down. Will that happen?
“I think they will probably be forced to resign and at the very least to take on minor roles in the party. Certainly it is unacceptable to have people who are proven to have lied in the party leadership or on a team negotiating on the next government. I think it gives Mr Sobotka new energy in the power struggle within the Social Democratic Party and I think he and his supporters will try and consolidate their position. That said, even if Mr Sobotka has now gained the upper hand, the president may still refuse to appoint Mr Sobotka as prime minister. He is under no obligation to do so.”
Will the latest developments, do you think, see President Zeman lose influence in the Social Democratic Party?
“I think his influence will certainly be diminished. With this he has
basically managed to turn the majority of the party against him. Until now,
many Social Democrats accepted his influence and were willing to cooperate
and his position was very strong. But even those who supported him in the
past will now see that he’s not really playing a fair game and is someone
who tries to use his influence in secret. I think this will turn a lot of
people against him. If Mr Zeman called this meeting to try and influence
what was going on inside the party and who the next prime minister would be
I think it will turn many against him and will damage his reputation as