Fearing Zeman’s Wrath MP’s Block Novichok DebateČTK
Prague, May 31 (CTK) – The Chamber of Deputies did not discuss the alleged production of the Novichok agent and President Milos Zeman’s words about it because opponents of the discussion today blocked the special lower house session provoked by the centre-right opposition.
Lower house chairman Radek Vondracek (ANO) indefinitely postponed the special session on Novichok as not enough MPs got registered for it today. A regular session will resume now.
About 40 MPs registered for the special session of the 200-seat lower house, while at least 67 are needed for it to be launched. The special session has been postponed until the heads of the nine lower house groups reach agreement on its new date.
Christian Democrat (KDU-CSL) MP Jan Bartosek said more than two thirds of the MPs were present, but only a small part of them registered themselves for the special session.
Bartosek said MPs seemed to be afraid of Zeman. “I perceive it as an expression of cowardice, fear of the president because this issue is absolutely crucial and concerns the reputation of the Czech Republic and the harming of its image abroad,” he said.
The special session was provoked by 55 MPs from five centrist and right-wing opposition parties – the Civic Democrats (ODS), the Pirates, the KDU-CSL, TOP 09 and the Mayors and Independents (STAN). These five parties have 70 MPs altogether. However, on Thursdays, when the main part of the programme is the regular questioning of the cabinet members, many government and opposition MPs are usually absent from the session.
The Communists (KSCM), the ANO movement of Prime Minister Andrej Babis and Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) previously withdrew the debate on Novichok from the regular session’s agenda.
STAN MP Vit Rakusan said the alliance of ANO, the KSCM and the SPD supported by the Social Democrats (CSSD) today used an unprecedented obstruction. Under ANO’s control, the Chamber of Deputies fulfilled the orders of the Presidential Office, he said.
Rakusan said he did not expect the Novichok session to be held later because ANO, the SPD and the KSCM do not want such a debate.
The Pirate Party failed to push through a proposal that the Chamber once again vote on the programme of an extraordinary session on Novichok.
Later today, the KDU-CSL proposed that Zeman’s statements on Novichok be discussed at the Chamber’s regular session this afternoon, but the proposal was rejected by the votes of the ANO, the SPD, the KSCM and the CSSD.
In early May, Zeman said, referring to the Czech Military Intelligence Service (VZ), that Novichok was produced in the Czech Republic last year. According to the civilian counter-intelligence service (BIS), no Novichok was produced in the country, Zeman continued, but added that he prefers sharing the VZ’s opinion.
Moscow used Zeman’s statements to challenge London’s assertion that the Novichok substance, with which former Russian agent Sergei Skripal was poisoned in Britain in March, came from Russia.
Zeman’s words about the Czech production of Novichok were subsequently dismissed by PM Babis, the lower house foreign committee and the upper house security and foreign committee. They said the VZ and BIS do not differ on the issue and both wrote in their reports that Novichok has been neither produced nor stored in the Czech Republic.