Wednesday, 3 June 2020

Babiš's alternative power structure arises on Czech scene

17 June 2016

Prague, June 16 (CTK) - The recent clash over a police reform shows that an alternative power structure pursuing its own goals has arisen in the Czech Republic, including Deputy PM Andrej Babis's ANO, his media, the police organised crime unit and the supreme and high state attorneys, Bohumil Pecinka says in Reflex on Thursday.

Czech police have undergone numerous restructurings in the past 25 years, which met with less or more criticism but no one ever challenged the police president's powers in this respect, which are controlled by the interior minister and the lower house security committee. It is only now that these powers have been challenged in reaction to the reform proposed by Police President Tomas Tuhy and promoted by Interior Minister Milan Chovanec (Social Democrats, CSSD), Pecinka writes.

The reform has been criticised by the alternative power structure of Babis and his allies who do not wish the police reform because it jeopardises their interests, Pecinka writes.

Babis and his people present themselves as the initiators of the anti-corruption crusade in recent years and say no change in the structure of public power can be made without their approval or even in spite of their disapproval of the plan, Pecinka writes.

The Babis group presents itself as the only authorised representative of a "new regime" who would not allow it to be challenged by anyone, Pecinka writes.

This is exactly how the coalition of a "new order", including Babis, state attorneys Pavel Zeman, Ivo Istvan and Pavel Komar and the police organised crime unit (UOOZ) head Robert Slachta, attacked the police command and the lawmakers who do not side with them and have therefore been labelled their adversaries, Pecinka writes.

The Babis group's action against the police reform was an attempted coup reminiscent of a banana republic, he writes.

The "new order" coalition came to power by a semi-coup in June 2013 and Babis's purchase of the MAFRA publisher, which eliminated investigative journalism in the country's biggest daily, Pecinka says, referring to daily Mlada fronta Dnes (MfD).

When the UOOZ raided the Government Office in June 2013, which led to the fall of the government, the state attorneys assured President Milos Zeman that charges against organised crime groups would be filed within several months. However, the investigations have produced no results since, Pecinka says.

No wonder that President Zeman's latest statements indicate that his trust in the UOOZ has diminished, Pecinka adds.

One of the reasons for the police restructuring planned by Tuhy and his deputy Zdenek Laube was to establish a single National Centre of Fighting Organised Crime and thereby put an end to the unacceptable rivalry of various units that were formed in the 1990s but have slipped out of the police command's control and started wildly competing with each other, Pecinka writes.

Four years ago, a plan was prepared to integrate these units, including the UOOZ, in the standard police hierarchy and put them under a common command so that they become a Czech version of the USA's FBI, Pecinka writes.

Tuhy wanted to acquaint lawmakers with the plan first, but after his meeting with Supreme State Attorney Pavel Zeman, the information about the plan appeared on the front page of Babis's Lidove noviny (LN) and MfD dailies, which started warning against the unrightful and dangerous elimination of Slachta as UOOZ head, Pecinka writes.

This made Tuhy speed up the reform's preparation. In the meanwhile, however, he came under the pressure of the "new order" coalition that politicised the issue and later Babis used it to provoke a government crisis, Pecinka writes.

Babis's protests came close to a coup when the "prosecutors'" clique entered the scene. Pavel Zeman addressed an impertinent letter to PM Bohuslav Sobotka (CSSD) and several UOOZ officers sent a protest letter to Chovanec, two days after its text was published by Babis's newspapers, Pecinka writes.

Babis said ANO would leave the government unless Chovanec and Tuhy step down. In reaction to him, Tuhy decided to confirm and explain the police reform at a press conference, he writes.

Shortly before, Olomouc High State Attorney Ivo Istvan attempted to discourage Tuhy and Laube from implementing the reform. The two reported Istvan's inappropriate intervention to Chovanec, Pecinka writes, referring to Istvan as the "Robspierre" of the pro-Babis coalition and Istvan's deputy Pavel Komar as its "Saint-Just."

Komar said he will check the police reform on suspicion of a crime, in view of the three-year old information that Slachta may be eliminated by means of a police restructuring. However, Komar failed to add that neither Tuhy nor Chovanec were in their current posts at the time, Pecinka writes.

In the whole affair, the most important thing is that public power be returned to a standard and legal regime. The state must reject the unacceptable coup-like threats the state attorneys address to Tuhy, and the UOOZ must be made a regular part of the police corps. The number two coup must not succeed. Czech democracy cannot afford it, Pecinka concludes.

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