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Prosecutor seeks criminal charges for toppled Czech PM

  • File - Czech President Milos Zeman attends ceremony at which he named Jiri Rusnok the new prime minister, at Prague Castle, in this June 13, 2013. (REUTERS/Petr Josek/Files)

PRAGUE: A Czech prosecutor has asked lawmakers to strip outgoing prime minister Petr Necas of his immunity from prosecution over a bribery and spy scandal that toppled his government, the parliament speaker said Monday.

"On July 8... Speaker of Parliament Miroslava Nemcova received a request from High State Prosecutor Ivo Istvan for parliamentary consent to begin criminal proceedings against lawmaker Petr Necas," Nemcova's office said in a statement.

Rightwinger Necas, 48, quit office last month after his chief of staff and alleged lover was indicted for abuse of power and bribery alongside seven other senior figures, including military intelligence heads and former lawmakers.

All but one are still in police custody.

Prosecutors believe the aide, Jana Nagyova, had military spies tail Necas's wife of 25 years, whom he is divorcing.

Necas on Monday denied having offered lucrative posts in state-run companies to three rebel lawmakers from his own party in exchange for their resignation -- a case for which Nagyova and the three ex-lawmakers have been indicted.

"There was no deal on swapping the resignation as lawmaker for top posts," Necas said in a statement, playing such deals down as political horse-trading rather than corruption.

"Political deals cannot be considered a crime... it's not clear to me what I should be accused of and why," said Necas.

In office since July 2010, Necas led a wobbly three-party centre-right coalition that survived eight confidence motions.

Leftwing rival President Milos Zeman has since appointed longtime ally and former finance minister Jiri Rusnok as his successor.

Zeman is due to approve Rusnok's cabinet on Wednesday, but analysts say it is unlikely to win confidence in a parliamentary vote that must take place within 30 days.

To survive, it needs backing from a simple majority of the lawmakers present in the 200-seat chamber.

Necas's outgoing coalition could vote it down with a 101-seat majority.

"I think Rusnok's cabinet doesn't have the backing of most lawmakers present," Jan Outly, a political analyst with Prague's Metropolitan University, told public broadcaster Czech TV on Monday.

"The only reason to put this cabinet together is to let it govern even after it fails the confidence vote," he added, pointing to the possibility that Zeman could use a constitutional loophole to delay naming a second candidate for premier if Rusnok loses.

Rusnok may as well govern until the next general election in May 2014 as politicians have so far failed to reach a deal on the three-fifths majority needed to dissolve parliament and trigger snap elections.

Opinion surveys show the leftwing opposition Social Democrats are tipped to win an election by a broad margin.

The turmoil has struck as the EU member is mired in its longest recession yet, lasting 18 months and with a 0.5-percent contraction forecast for this year.

Heavily dependent on car and electronics exports to EU powerhouse Germany, the nation of 10.5 million people has been hit hard by the slump in demand amid the eurozone debt crisis.

The Czech Republic has been plagued by corruption since it emerged as an independent state after its 1993 split from Slovakia -- widely seen as a legacy of four decades of totalitarian communist rule.

 
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