Prime Minister tight-lipped about who helped to pay for his luxury flat

31-01-2005

The Czech Prime Minister and head of the Social Democratic Party Stanislav Gross has found himself in a predicament that has broken many a politician's back in the democratic world. He is either unable or unwilling to explain the source of the money with which he bought a luxury flat in Prague.

Prime Minister Stanislav Gross, photo: CTKPrime Minister Stanislav Gross, photo: CTK How did the Prime Minister pay for his luxury flat in Prague? That is a question that both the media and the public would like to hear an answer to, and although the Prime Minister has had several weeks in which to come up with an answer he still refuses to speak.

When the question was first raised some time ago, the Prime Minister claimed to have borrowed the money from an uncle, and when it emerged that his uncle never had that kind of money, he said that it had been a loan from other unnamed relatives living outside the Czech Republic. This is an explanation that most people find hard to believe. Political analyst Jiri Pehe:

"He should come up with a more plausible explanation but it seems to me that any explanation that would be more plausible would most likely have to be something he would have to invent because if there were a plausible explanation that he could offer the public he would have done so a long time ago."

At a press conference over the weekend the Prime Minister not only refused to say any more about the matter, he threatened to sue the Mlada Fronta Dnes daily for the manner in which it had reported on his income and finances.

Is that a wise course of action for a man in his position? Political analyst Jiri Pehe believes that paradoxically it may be :

Jiri PeheJiri Pehe "I think that from his point of view -unfortunately, I should say - it may be wise because in the Czech Republic it is a very good tactic to use. We know that in the past there have been some scandals in which cornered politicians would sue the periodical in question and they would very often win or they would at least be able to go on a counter-offensive and eventually it would all fizzle out. So I think that unfortunately Mr. Gross has very good prospects of turning this scandal into something that is basically a fight between him and a certain daily and the merit of the whole thing will, once again, be forgotten."

With less than two months to go to a crucial party conference in which he hopes to get re-elected, Stanislav Gross needs to protect his integrity. Could his unwillingness to explain this matter undermine his position as Prime Minister and party leader? Jiri Pehe thinks not:

"Mr. Gross has so far been able to fend off most attacks and he has been under pressure during various regional conferences. Some of this affair was known already last week when he was winning nominations /for party leader/ in many constituencies, so I do not think that this is a big issue in his party. Perhaps also because Czech politicians know that in a way this behaviour is normal in Czech politics. What is also interesting in this whole affair is the conspicuous silence on the part of the opposition. I think opposition politicians are keeping quiet simply because they know that the focus of the media could shift to them and many of them could be in the same predicament as Mr. Gross is now."

31-01-2005