Pirate Party Calls For Dismissal of Justice Minister Blazek
In a party-wide vote, members of the Pirate Party, a junior party in the ruling Czech government coalition, have called on Pirate MPs and ministers to propose the immediate dismissal of Pavel Blazek (ODS) as justice minister because of his August meeting with pro-Russian lobbyist Martin Nejedly.
The party members also called on Pirate leader Ivan Bartos to inquire about the position of the Mayors and Independents (STAN), the Pirates’ ally in the 2021 general election, on Blazek remaining in the cabinet. A total of 545 Pirate members took part in the internal vote, and 331 supported Blazek’s dismissal.
PM and ODS leader Petr Fiala said that the filling of ministerial posts is a matter for the coalition parties.
“I will not comment on the internal party processes of other parties until [Pirate] chairman Bartos informs me of the results of the vote,” Fiala said. “It is important to say, however, that the personnel leadership of individual ministries is in the hands of the respective parties, based on the coalition agreement.”
In June, the Pirates voted for a resolution stating that Blazek’s tenure as justice minister threatens public confidence in justice and the rule of law, as well as the implementation of the government’s policies. That resolution was in response to Blazek’s alleged conflict of interest over the investigation of the allocation of municipal flats in Brno, as well as other controversial actions reported by anti-corruption organisations.
PM Fiala subsequently discussed the situation with Bartos and expressed his support for Blazek.
STAN leader and Interior Minister Vit Rakusan told CTK that ODS was responsible for Blazek remaining a member of the cabinet or leaving.
“In the case of our minister’s departure, we did not refer to the views of our coalition partners and did what we thought was right,” Rakusan said.
Education Minister Petr Gazdik (STAN) had to leave the cabinet last year due to his contacts with accused lobbyist Michal Redl.
The Pirates are the smallest party in the government and the Chamber of Deputies, with four seats out of 200. They have three seats in the 18-member government, including the vice-presidency. STAN has 33 seats.
The ODS-led five-party government has a majority of 108 seats in the Chamber. The government consists of the Spolu alliance of ODS, Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) and TOP 09, and the STAN-Pirates alliance. The government formed after the general election held two years ago.
In late August, Seznam Zprávy reported on a meeting between Blazek and Nejedly, a former adviser to president Milos Zeman (2013-23), in a restaurant in Prague.
Blazek described the meeting on social media as accidental, and claimed he had simply been taking shelter in the restaurant during a storm. He then spent several hours at the restaurant with Nejedly, who was celebrating there with a larger group. Amid criticism from his coalition partners and calls for his resignation, Blazek had to explain the circumstances of the meeting to coalition parties.
Once again, Fiala defended Blazek, saying that Blazek had answered the questions addressed to him. Before talks between coalition party leaders, Fiala said that Blazek had received a “yellow card” from the ODS leadership, and understood what this warning meant in sports terminology.
Last week Blazek admitted to the Pravo newspaper that he had considered resigning at the time.
“The meeting of several hours between the justice minister and a lobbyist of this type, which was not sufficiently credibly explained to the public, really undermines trust in the government and raises many questions among citizens,” said Pirate leader and Deputy PM Bartos. “In the case of Pavel Blazek, moreover, there have unfortunately been a number of controversies for a long time. Criticism of his actions comes not only from the Pirates, but mainly from the public, the investigative media, and anti-corruption organisations.”