The Czech Republic’s main ruling party was due to meet yesterday to search for a candidate to succeed Prime Minister Petr Necas who quit on Sunday after a spying and bribery scandal that centered on his closest aide.
“I will step down as prime minister tomorrow [yesterday]. I am aware of my political responsibility,” Necas told reporters after talks in Prague with partners in his center-right minority coalition government in power since July 2010.
“When I step down the entire government will step down in line with the constitution,” he said.
Necas was due to formally hand in his resignation to Czech President Milos Zeman yesterday afternoon, starting the formal process of replacing the entire center-right Cabinet which fell automatically with the prime minister.
Necas quit after prosecutors on Friday charged the head of his office, Jana Nagyova, with complicity in the “abuse of power and with bribery” and was placed in custody on Saturday.
Seven other people — including military intelligence heads and former lawmakers — have also been indicted for corruption among other alleged crimes.
The 48-year-old Nagyova was charged with bribery after allegedly promising three former lawmakers from Necas’ party lucrative jobs in state-run companies on condition they quit parliament and drop a rebellion against Necas last year.
Police also say Nagyova had asked Czech military intelligence to tail the prime minister’s wife, Radka, 47, and two other people.
Necas announced this week he was getting divorced from his wife after more than 25 years, amid media speculation that Nagyova was his lover.
The outgoing prime minister’s Civic Democratic party (ODS) aims to form a new government with their current two coalition partners to finish the regular four-year term expiring in May next year.
The party called a leadership meeting for 1pm to discuss who could replace Necas.
However, for that plan to work, they need the consent of Zeman, who has the sole right to appoint the next prime minister. Zeman, a leftist opponent of Necas, has not made any comment on who should succeed him.
If repeated attempts to form a new Cabinet fail, or if coalition and opposition parties agree to dissolve parliament, an early election would be held, possibly in the autumn.
The ODS has not revealed any list of candidates for prime minister, but politicians and the media have pointed to the party’s deputy chairman, Czech Industry and Trade Minister Martin Kuba.
“He is the number one in the ODS after Necas and if he asks for the position, I will respect that,” party official Jiri Pospisil said on Czech Television.
Kuba was quoted as saying he would accept the job if asked to.
A lawyer for Nagyova says she denies some of the allegations against her, while on others she says she acted in good faith.
An EU member since 2004, the ex-communist Czech Republic has been plagued by corruption since it emerged as an independent state after its 1993 split with Slovakia.
Corruption watchdog Transparency International last year ranked the Czech Republic as worse than Costa Rica and Rwanda in terms of the prevalence of graft in its “Corruption Perceptions Index.”