Czech house speaker quits over subsidy scandal

The speaker of the Czech parliament's lower house resigned after admitting he lied about a subsidy, a step to cool a scandal.

Czech house speaker quits over subsidy scandal

The speaker of the Czech parliament's lower house resigned on Thursday after admitting he lied about a subsidy, a step to cool a scandal that could damage his Social Democrats before an election in May.

The left-wing Social Democrats top opinion polls but they will almost certainly fall short of an overall majority. So they need every vote to secure a strong position for building a government after the May 28-29 election.

The central European country has been ruled by a caretaker administration since the fall of a centre-right cabinet last year, and the election should produce a government with a full mandate for reforms needed to halt an erosion of public finances.

Lower house Chairman Miloslav Vlcek said he would quit his post as well as the top of his party's candidate list in the eastern region of Olomouc, a Social Democrat stronghold.

"I can confirm I am resigning as of April 30," Vlcek told a news conference. He gave no further comment on the matter.

Vlcek had denied he knew a man whom he helped get a 25-million-crown ($1.33 million) state subsidy after he lobbied the budget committee for the move. He later admitted the man had worked as his adviser.

The finance ministry has been investigating whether the subsidy was used in line with the law.

Vlcek also admitted on Wednesday to making a 1.1 million crown loan repayment in cash, which he said was a violation of a law ordering such payments to be done through bank transfers.

Vlcek has not been charged with any crime.

Cronyism and corruption have been a central issue in the Czech election campaign, revealing people's distrust in their representatives and still-weak enforcement of white collar crime laws in the country, 20 years after it embraced democracy following the collapse of Communist rule.

Opaque tenders and links between business and the city hall in the right-wing stronghold Prague have hurt the main right-wing party, the Civic Democrats.

Voters have been drifting away from both the main parties, polls have shown, boosting new right-wing and centrist groups -- the TOP09 and Public Affairs (VV). A strong showing could give them a major say in building a government coalition.

Reuters

Last Mod: 22 Nisan 2010, 18:57
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