New Czech President puts mafia in spotlight
In his inauguration speech, the Czech Republic’s new President Milos Zeman warned that one of the biggest dangers that the country is facing is the mafia which feeds off society, news daily the Kyiv Post wrote, March 8.
“One of the biggest dangers we are facing are godfather-like mafias that reside on the body of Czech society,” the Kyiv Post wrote quoting Zeman. “They suck blood out of this body and don’t return any added value.”
Zeman announced that he will be pushing for a “full declaration of assets and income” by public officials, as a means of fighting against corruption.
The declaration surprised some critics who have insinuated that the new President has ties with Russian-connected political lobbyist, and controversial businessman, Miroslav S. The latter is said to be linked to deceased mafia boss Frantisek M, dubbed the godfather of Czech crime, before his assassination in 2006.
Miroslav S is also credited by the media with financing Zeman’s Party of Civic Rights – Zemanovici, together with Martin N, a Russian oil company Lukoil employee.
Zeman’s fundraising methods have also raised eyebrows in the past, with the first scandal hitting headlines in 1996, when he allegedly asked a Swiss businessman to fund his election campaign in exchange for being able to influence the Czech economy. Zeman’s part in this scandal was never proven.
The most controversial announcement made at Friday’s inauguration speech was perhaps Zeman’s vow to combat media, which “brainwash” and “manipulate” public opinion. Again this led critics to remember how the former-PM outraged media at home and abroad when he threatened weekly newspaper Respekt in 2001.
“The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has denounced Prime Minister Milos Zeman for threatening to bankrupt the independent Prague-based weekly Respekt with a series of debilitating lawsuits in retaliation for its criticism of his government,” international organization CPJ wrote at the time.
The daily was renowned for its articles outlining alleged corrupt practices by the Zeman-led Social Democratic Party (CSSD). Critics underline that Zeman’s power-sharing agreement with the ODS party, from his time as PM (1998 – 2002) “encouraged public-sector corruption to flourish,” according to news portal bne.com.
The new President also said that he wants to act to bring the often feuding political scene together, and to fight against the alarming rise of neo-Nazism in the Czech Republic.
Milos Zeman won the country’s first direct Presidential election with 54.8 per cent of the vote in a run-off against Karel Schwarzenberg; Foreign Minister and co-founder of minor coalition partner, the conservative Top 09 party.
Photo by Michal Krumphanzl. Courtesy of Polish news agency PAP