Paris: The future of the Czech government was called into doubt on Friday after law enforcement officials said they had charged a senior aide of Prime Minister Petr Necas with abuse of office and bribery.
The charges, coming a day after extensive nationwide raids on government and company offices by a unit investigating organised crime, appeared to be part of the most sweeping anti-corruption operation since the Czechs overthrew communism in the Velvet Revolution of 1989.
Necas remained defiant on Friday, telling Parliament that he would not resign and had done nothing wrong. But the online version of Mlada fronta DNES, a leading newspaper, reported that the request for a no-confidence vote had already been submitted by the opposition Social Democrats and could take place as early as next week.
"The Social Democrats expect the speedy resignation of Prime Minster Petr Necas and the entire government," a party official, Jeronym Tejc, was quoted as saying by Reuters. "If that does not happen, the Social Democrats will initiate a vote of no confidence."
The chief state prosecutor from Olomouc in eastern Czech Republic, Ivo Istvan, told reporters on Friday that Jana Nagyova, the prime minister's chief of staff, was suspected of leading an illegal surveillance operation and ordering a military intelligence agency to spy on three people. The Czech news agency CTK reported those spied on included Necas' wife, Radka Necasova. Necas announced this week that they are divorcing.
At a news conference in Prague on Friday, police officials said they had been shocked to learn that Nagyova, a close confidante of the prime minister, had been using the intelligence services for personal motives.
Istvan, the state prosecutor, said six other people had also been charged. He said the current and previous directors of military intelligence had been charged with abuse of power, while two former members of Parliament from Necas' party had been charged with bribery.
Analysts said the ensnarement of a senior aide of the prime minister in a corruption inquiry threatened to unhinge the fragile coalition government of Necas, which has already been shaken by a series of scandals and disagreements over economic policy.
But leading members of one of Necas' coalition partners, TOP09, said Friday that the prime minister could help restore confidence if he fired all of the government employees who had been charged.
Necas, for his part, appeared determined to cling to power. He said the theatrical style with which a top military officer had been "eliminated" had done irreparable damage to the Czech Republic and its image. Conspicuously absent was any mention of Nagyova, his close aide.
© 2013, The New York Times News Service