Prague, Feb 15 (CTK) – Frantisek Cuba, 82, will resign from the post of Czech senator at the end of February, following his 18-month absence from the Senate due to health problems, he announced in a written statement that senator Ivo Valenta (for Entrepreneurs’ Party) read in the Senate on Thursday.

Cuba was elected senator for the small Party of Citizens’ Rights (SPO) in late 2014 but he has been absent from all Senate sessions since mid-2016. The SPO formed around Milos Zeman who has been president since 2013.

Senate chairman Milan Stech (Social Democrats, CSSD) has been criticising Cuba for his permanent absence, not going on sick leave and a lack of communication for a long time. In reaction, Cuba started sending his salary to a foundation in support of students set up by Valenta last summer.

Both Valenta and Cuba live in the Zlin Region in eastern Moravia. Valenta is the owner of the Synot betting firm.

In January, Stech recommended to Cuba that he give up his mandate. Senate press secretary Eva Davidova said Cuba briefly replied to Stech’s letter after more than a month, saying he would consider the proposal.

Cuba is a controversial figure. He became known as the former head of the Slusovice agricultural cooperative that achieved success in the communist Czechoslovakia in the 1980s.

Cuba said in his written statement that he plans to keep working as an aide to President Zeman.

He said he originally planned to take part in the Senate session on Thursday but he changed his mind due to the strong pressure that was exerted on him.

Cuba has been a part of the left-wing Group of independent senators. With Cuba’s resignation, the five-member group will end because the minimum number of senators required to form a group is five. The group’s head, SPO leader Jan Veleba, said he respected Cuba’s step.

A by-election will have to be organised in the Zlin ward which Cuba represented in the Senate.

After four months, the Senate has become complete as Jan Sobotka (for Mayors and Independents, STAN) said his senator’s oath earlier on Thursday. However, it will be formally complete for only two weeks, until Cuba’s departure.

Sobotka won a by-election held in January.