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Outgoing South Bohemia governor debates his departure with Zeman

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Prague, April 26 (CTK) – Jiri Zimola (Social Democrats, CSSD), the outgoing governor of the South Bohemia Region, told President Milos Zeman at their meeting today that he will step down on Thursday only due to a brutal political pressure exerted on him on the regional level, he told the media.

“I also have signals showing that it [the pressure] might have been coordinated from the CSSD ranks,” said Zimola, who leads the CSSD regional branch.

In the CSSD, Zimola is a political opponent of the party chairman and Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka.

He emphasised that he does not face prosecution over recent controversial cases related to South Bohemian Hospitals, a company for which the CSSD is responsible in the regional government.

Zimola said he will run in the October 20-21 general election in the last, 22nd position of the CSSD’s list of candidates in South Bohemia. He would consider it undemocratic if the CSSD scrapped his candidacy, he said.

Zimola said he felt a brutal political pressure exerted on him mainly from his political opponents in South Bohemia. He mentioned the regional branch of the Civic Democrats (ODS) and its mafia-like practices.

They might have coordinated the pressure with the CSSD’s central leadership, he said.

“Nevertheless, I will not point at anyone in the CSSD leadership. I do not want to cause further harm to the CSSD, I want to do my utmost for its [election] result to be the best possible,” Zimola said.

He admitted that he has no evidence to prove that the CSSD leadership contributed to the escalation of the situation in South Bohemia.

Sobotka dismissed the speculation previously.

Zimola said he arrived at Prague Castle, the presidential seat, at his own request today.

“I did not come to ask the president for support. I am glad that he expressed his friendly relation to me,” Zimola said.

He dismissed the speculation that he might switch from the CSSD to another political party.

Zimola is departing as governor due to a scandal over an excessive pay going to the South Bohemian Hospitals head Martin Blaha, who, at the same time, has had a countryside house built for Zimola in the Lipno recreation resort.

The affair has been criticised by the regional opposition as well as the CSSD’s ally ANO. ANO even withdrew from the regional government a couple of weeks ago and the CSSD has formed a new coalition government without ANO but also without Zimola as governor.

Dismissing all accusations, Zimola said he will order an audit to clean his name. He will release its results after it is completed in early May, he said.

Zimola brought the CSSD to victory in regional elections for three consecutive times in 2008, 2012 and 2016. In last year’s elections, South Bohemia, together with Vysocina, were the only two regions where the CSSD won, out of the total of 13.

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