Coalition party mayors return donations but deny wrongdoing

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The mayors and the independents presented themselves as the junior party of an electoral coalition with the pirates, under the name of PirStan.

However, they fared much better than their partners, winning 33 seats in the October elections against the four pirates.

They are now the second-largest group in the five-party government coalition and also hold the second-largest number of seats in the Senate.

The liberal mayors – who only began to focus on national politics in 2017 – have capitalized on the scandal-free appearance and identify with the legacy of Václav Havel.

Recently, however, they have been in hot water.

Their first candidate for industry minister stepped down in November after his finances came under scrutiny.

Last month, the Mladá fronta Dnes newspaper reported that hundreds of thousands of donation crowns had appeared in the party’s public bank account from companies linked to Cyprus.

A week ago, the Seznam Zprávy news site said the co-owner of a company that donated millions of crowns to mayors was under criminal investigation for a tax case. This led the opposition to call for a debate in the lower house on party funding.




Jan Farsky |  Photo: Michaela Danelova, Czech Radio

On Tuesday, the mayors responded. President Vít Rakušan announced that they would return all funds received from companies since the elections. This amounts to 3.4 million CZK.

“For us, as a movement of mayors and independents, no money is worth risking the trust of the people who have supported us. Mayors and independents will get by without corporate donations, until a debate on the tightening of the rules for political parties and their funding takes place.

Mr Rakušan told reporters that the party had done nothing illegal and could prove it. He added, however, that in this particular case, compliance with the law was not enough.

He said the new government had introduced hope for a change in Czech political culture and that his party did not wish to tarnish its reputation.

Mayors will now launch a debate on the rules surrounding party funding, another senior member said.

The funding controversy follows another reputational blow to mayors.

Party number two Jan Farský (42) surprised the entire Czech political scene when he recently announced that he was going to accept a six-month scholarship to the United States – but that he would not give up his seat. deputy.

Many eyebrows were raised and President Miloš Zeman called the decision “incredible amateurism” and a fraud on those who voted for Mr Farský just a few months ago.

Party leader Rakušan conceded that he too was unhappy with the situation and could understand the stormy response.

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