Deputy PM facing mounting pressure to step down|
It was clear from the moment he entered high politics that the former mayor
of the town of Vsetin, Jiri Cunek, was a controversial politician. After he
achieved nationwide notoriety for moving Roma rent defaulters from the
centre of Vsetin, his political career accelerated. Riding on a wave of
popularity, Jiri Cunek won a Senate seat and the chairmanship of his
Christian Democratic Party; that eventually launched him to the posts of
deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Regional Development in the
coalition government of Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek.
But the uncompromising attitude which first earned Jiri Cunek political
success may now be coming back to haunt him. Facing charges of corruption
as well as a lawsuit over his comments on the Roma, Jiri Cunek is proving
a liability for the coalition government.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Regional Development Jiri Cunek is
facing mounting criticism from all sides; from the opposition as well as
the coalition Greens who are threatening to leave the cabinet and also
from the Prime Minister himself. Moreover, he is facing a lawsuit by Roma
rights activists over his recent offensive comments in the press. Romany
organisations are calling on Jiri Cunek to step down and are planning to
stage a protest outside the government headquarters on Wednesday. Zdenek
Horvath of the Athinganoi civic association.
"We are outraged by Mr Cunek's statements and we hope that the
government and other state officials are going to respond very quickly -
considering how radical and unacceptable his comments were."
Nothing seems to ever throw Jiri Cunek off balance. He claims the
corruption case against him has been fabricated. He maintains the
statements he is being criticised for were not about Romanies as he never
mentioned the word "Roma" in them. He even says he is perfectly
willing to appear at Wednesday's demonstration against him.
"I would be very happy if there were people who want to ask questions
so I could answer them. But, of course, if there are only people who will
criticise me for things that never happened and things I never said and
who are not willing to understand that one must work in order to earn
money, then any discussion is difficult."
The cabinet - currently concerned primarily by public finance reforms -
will discuss Jiri Cunek's case on Wednesday. Prior to that Jiri Cunek's
remaining in government will be on the agenda of Tuesday's national
conference of his Christian Democrats. They had earlier backed their
leader and individual members of the leadership have told reporters they
will not put pressure on him at Tuesday's meeting. Jiri Cunek himself says
he does not expect his party colleagues to recommend that he step down; he
also says if he is dismissed from government by PM Topolanek that would be
a breach of the coalition agreement.