>Czech political scandal: Staged photos trigger low farce

>And, as they say on all the best shopping channels, did you think I was done? Done with Czech politics that is. Just when you think it safe to avert you eyes from the CR and focus on other big issues like the Slovenian election, scandal erupts. And this is not just some boring any old tale of corrupt payments and dubious conflicts of interest.

Oh no. In the twinkling of an eye – as only Czech politics can – we descend from ideological battles over public services and tax-and-spend to low farce that anyone scripting a political satire would probably reject as implausible. Dissident Civic Democrat flat-tax advocate (and ex-Finance Minister in the short-lived centre-right coalition of 2006), Vlastimil Tlustý (pictured), was so shocked by the corrupt and cynical behaviour of his fellow ODS deputies (did it really taken him this long to discover it?) that he started recording them secretly on a dictaphone and – presumably when this didn’t quite yield up what he wanted – teamed up with journalists from TV Nova and the daily MF Dnes with a rather bizarre entrapment scheme: he staged some ‘compromising’ photos of himself and a blonde filmed in a hotel swimming pool (here, if you really must look, although the most comprising thing revealed is that Tlustý could do with losing a few kilos). The journos, posing as private detectives, offered it various of his party colleagues, who would – it was assumed – jump at the bait showing all the world just how very sleazy they were.

A prime ministerial aide turned down the offer of the pics of Tlustý and the unnamed blonde, but, alas, young ODS deputy Jan Morava felt duty bound to get material and even told the ‘detective’ in a secretly filmed meeting that he also wanted to arrange the taking on some surveillance picture on a Green MP’s daughter with himself, so he could blackmail or intimidate her mother into backing the government: the Greens, I should say, are divided on whether to stay in the centre-right coalition government and, to complicate, matters further are just at this very moment having a make or break congress to decide the leadership and future direction of their party. It’s unclear what Morava’s exact relationship with the MP’s daughter was, although evidence in the press suggests some kind of friendship or romance, but you get the general idea…

The political upshot of all this? Prime Minister Topolánek calls for both Tlustý and Morava to leave parliament and makes an emotional apology to the Greens at their congress and begs them to get their act together (and stay in the coalition). He says he is appalled and shocked at such filth and feels like leaving politics. Possibly true at an emotional level, but can you really get to the top of Czech politics and have such a delicate conscience. I rather doubt it.

The odds on the government collapsing have just shortened, I would say. Who knows? Perhaps that was the whole idea all along.

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