Sabina SlonkovÃ¡ has another scoop today, and a pretty big one. First, a bit of backstory: The Czech parliament is in deadlock, with both leftist and right-of-center coalitions even with 100 votes each. But yesterday one MP, Michal Pohanka, decided to leave the Social Democrats, which leave them one vote short of 50 %.
The question is, though, whether this MP is caught up in what is being called the BudiÅ¡ov scandal, which involves the misappropriation of EU funds by a gang of well-connected political insiders from the top echelons of the Social Democrats. In the interview he says it’s all being made up.
Last week I translated another of Sabina SlonkovÃ¡’s stories on the topic, and this one was too big to ignore too. As usual, the translation is mine. It’s a pretty quick translation, so feel free to leave any corrections in the comments.
17:45 | 25.10.2006
Prague â€“ MP Michal Pohanka, who today left ÄŒSSD, argues that he was under strong pressure to do so. In an exclusive interview for AktuÃ¡lnÄ›.cz, he also said that he is considering a request for police protection.
Michal Pohanka is insisting that the Social Democrats themselves wanted to get rid of him, and that the request was translated by the head of the ÄŒSSD parliamentary club, Michal HaÅ¡ek.
Pohanka is now hiding in an unknown location. He has shut off mobile telephones and not even his former party colleagues are in touch with him. Despite this, the AktuÃ¡lnÄ›.cz newsroom managed to connect with him with the help of an intermediary. After the interview was over, Pohanka called back: While he at first considered requesting police protection in the afternoon, by the evening he pulled back from doing so.
We now bring you a unique interview.
â€œIt started even before Nova broadcast the report where they talked about me. We had some meeting in the zoo, where Michal HaÅ¡ek spoke with me and told me I should give up my [parliamentary] mandate. When I told him I would not do it, he started talking like: Do what you want. The police will now be after you and youâ€™re going to have a very hard time. As if some kind of war was going on,â€ Pohanka said.
AktualnÄ›.cz: But Michal HaÅ¡ek denies your version and argues that nobody called on you to leave?
He’s not telling the truth.
There were a total of two conversations on the same day. At the second, even chairman Paroubek was there. HaÅ¡ek told him that I donâ€™t want to give up my mandate and Paroubek only shrugged his shoulders. He more or less didnâ€™t comment any more. Then I remained alone with this problem and waited for what would come.
AKTUALNE.CZ: And thatâ€™s all that led to your leaving the party?
Then a lot of strange things started happening around me. It was recommended that I not speak to anyone because my telephone would be tapped.
AKTUALNE.CZ: Who recommended this to you?
It was all from the side of my colleague, HaÅ¡ek. I had the feeling that he was the moving force. Or someone entrusted him to do it. When you have communicated with these people as long as I have with HaÅ¡ek, who I know several years, his behavior seems absurd. It seemed to me that they wanted to apply a presumption of guilt, even if elsewhere they would have acted differently.
AKTUALNE.CZ: Your friends argue that someone has followed your coworkers and destroyed your office. Is that true?
Thatâ€™s what Iâ€™m talking about when I say that strange things have started to happen. Maybe Iâ€™m paranoid, but to be sure Iâ€™m going to request police protection. When the same people keep moving around you, itâ€™s probably not completely normal. And when they start to appear around those close to you, it logically unnerves you.
AKTUALNE.CZ: Are you afraid?
To a certain extent yes, because you donâ€™t go through this kind of situation every day.
AKTUALNE.CZ: At LidovÃ½ dÅ¯m (the Social Democratsâ€™ headquarters), voices can be heard saying youâ€™re under pressure from the police. Isnâ€˜t it the police who are following you?
Iâ€™ve also heard that too, but itâ€™s absolute nonsense. If Iâ€™m under any pressure, I feel it from ÄŒSSD, not from the police. Nothing like that is true.
AKTUALNE.CZ: Thanks to you, the leftists have lost their parity in parliament. Do you now know how you will vote if ODS forms another government â€“ or a cabinet leading the country to early elections were to emerge?
Iâ€™m going to consider my position further. Now that Iâ€™ve left ÄŒSSD, Iâ€™m going to consider my own opinion and not be led by opinions that are given to me by some party. Now Iâ€™m in the position of an independent MP.
AKTUALNE.CZ: Has any politician contacted you with an offer to switch sides?
No, Iâ€™ve shut off all my telephones.
AKTUALNE.CZ: Your move, which evidently surprised ÄŒSSD, comes at a time when you can seriously influence the form of a future government. Did you consult with someone in ODS or another party about your approach?
No. With noone. It was my personal decision, which was ripening inside me for a long time. I considered it even before the local elections, but I didnâ€™t want to harm my colleaguesâ€™ campaign.
AKTUALNE.CZ: So in the end you decided to leave between the first and second rounds of senate electionsâ€¦
I originally wanted to wait more, but these strange things started to shift somewhere and I couldn’t wait any more. The situation simply became ripe.
AKTUALNE.CZ: If what you describe didnâ€™t happen, would you have left the party?
No. I didnâ€™t have any strong disputes with anyone from ÄŒSSD. Iâ€™ve let it be know n that I donâ€™t like this confrontational style of politics, but it wasnâ€™t acute.
AKTUALNE.CZ: So itâ€™s not that the ÄŒSSD leadership knew you were the weak link that could â€œswitch sidesâ€ and wanted to prevent you from doing so by forcing you to give up your mandate?
Thatâ€™s definitely not it. I see this instead as an internal struggle inside ÄŒSSD.
AKTUALNE.CZ: Youâ€™re hiding in seclusion and considering protectionâ€¦ How do you want to continue like this?
Weâ€™ll see how long it will last. I believe that after senate elections I will normally return to my work.