Deputy PM Cunek in hot water yet again after comments about Roma|
Deputy Prime Minister Jiri Cunek is in hot water once more. After last week
persuading the prime minister to let him stay in government despite being
investigated for corruption, Mr Cunek again stirred controversy when he
made offensive comments about Romanies in a newspaper interview. Now
coalition partners the Greens have called for his head. With the pressure
ratcheting up, how much longer Jiri Cunek can hang on?
Jiri Cunek made a public apology on Sunday, after coming in for a wave of
condemnation for statements he made about the country's Roma minority.
Asked by a newspaper whether other people should receive state subsidies
too, Mr Cunek said non-Roma would need to get a tan, cause chaos in their
families and start fires on town squares before politicians would regard
them as badly off.
It was a strange move, coming days after Civic Democrat Prime Minister
Mirek Topolanek effectively gave him a reprieve, allowing Mr Cunek to stay
in cabinet despite being under investigation for alleged bribe-taking.
That said, his words may not have been wholly surprising. After all, Jiri
Cunek came to prominence for expelling Romany rent-defaulters from the
centre of a Moravian town when he was mayor.
Getting back to Sunday's apology, it was not unequivocal, with the
Christian Democrat chairman and regional development minister saying
Romanies had not understood his remarks.
Within hours, coalition partners the Greens were calling for his head. The
party's chairman, Martin Bursik said Mr Cunek's comments were insulting and
unacceptable, not only for the Romany community but for all Czechs. He said
they harmed the Czech government in particular.
Mr Bursik wants the prime minister to call a meeting of the leaders of the
three parties in the coalition to discuss Mr Cunek's future. Coming on top
of previous controversies, can the deputy prime minister continue to stand
his ground? Political analyst Petr Just.
"None of the previous...things were solved yet. So combining
altogether all the matters, all the conflicts, all the controversies
around him...makes his position harder and harder. I expect there will be
more pressure on him to at least temporarily leave the government, not
only from the Greens but also from the Civic Democrats."