Did Drahos Miss the Mark? – Can Babis’s Interior Minister Deliver him from Prosecution?

Prague, Dec 2 (CTK) – Czech presidential contender Jiri Drahos has warned against foreign influence on the January presidential election, but he submitted no concrete evidence or ways to tackle the problem, Martin Zverina writes in Lidove noviny (LN) today, reacting to Drahos’ meeting with PM Bohuslav Sobotka on Friday.


Drahos, the rational former Sciences Academy chairman, knows well that the phenomenon of influencing elections has always existed and its chances are rising with the arrival of new technologies. Drahos also knows that foreign secret services, such as those in France or Germany, still fail to catch any foreign agent red-handed rigging elections, Zverina writes.


This is a very unpleasant reality, but Drahos’s meeting with the prime minister can change nothing about it, he writes.


Since Drahos submitted no concrete data, his act can be viewed as a pure political step within his presidential campaign. He wanted to present himself as the leading and most important of the nine candidates who is supervising the fair course of the presidential race, Zverina writes.


Drahos’s step, which he took only to boost his own publicity, was unfortunate because until now, he has tried not to irritate the voters of Milos Zeman, who will seek re-election as president and whom public opinion polls describe as the election favourite along with Drahos, Zverina writes.


By his empty accusation of Russia [as a foreign power influencing Czech elections], however, Drahos will irritate Zeman’s supporters without winning any new ones, Zverina writes.


The meeting of presidential candidate Jiri Drahos and outgoing PM Bohuslav Sobotka at which Drahos warned against the influencing of Czech elections by the Russian intelligence service brought nothing new, since Russia’s practices in this respect are generally known both at home and abroad, Alexandr Mitrofanov writes in Pravo.


Moscow’s ways of influencing foreign elections were previously described by Petr Pavel, the Czech head of the NATO military committee, and also by the Czech counter-intelligence service in its annual reports. In the USA, investigation in this respect is underway and might even endanger the position of President Donald Trump, Mitrofanov writes.


By meeting Drahos, Sobotka (Social Democrats, CSSD) wanted to send his last message to the public that he has held Prague’s Euro-Atlantic position as a counter-balance of the Russian influence firmly for the whole of his four-year mandate as PM, Mitrofanov writes.


Drahos, for his part, needed to make it clear that he views the activities of his rival candidate Milos Zeman, the incumbent president, as unacceptable, Mitrofanov says, adding that General Pavel, too, previously said the NATO allies do not consider Zeman a pro-Western but a pro-Russian politician.


Elsewhere in Pravo, Josef Koukal voices embarrassment at ANO leader Andrej Babis having chosen former policeman Lubomir Metnar for interior minister in his nascent minority government.


The choice optically turns the ministry into the ministry of police again, though its agenda is in fact much broader, encompassing the whole public administration, Koukal writes.


No one is interested about Metnar’s views concerning administration or post offices. Everybody primarily wants to know his position on the Stork Nest case, a suspected subsidy fraud involving Babis and ANO deputy head Jaroslav Faltynek as suspects faced with prosecution, Koukal writes.


Behind the scenes, suspicions are emerging of whether Babis expects Metnar to sweep unpleasant cases under the carpet. Addressed by media, Metnar has been diverting their attention by speaking of terrorism and security risks, which voters like to listen to. Nevertheless, journalists must be asking whose man Metnar actually is, Koukal writes.


True, Babis could have tapped his protege, former elite police detective Robert Slachta, as interior minister, but this would be too ostentatious and striking. In any case, a policeman sharing the cabinet with a prosecuted suspect is a noteworthy masterpiece, Koukal adds.