Czech president-elect Pavel calls for in-depth probe of presidential office

Czech president-elect Pavel calls for in-depth probe of presidential office
Pavel said that he has indications that law has been systematically transgressed by the staff of outgoing President Milos Zeman. / bne IntelliNews
By Albin Sybera February 1, 2023

Petr Pavel, who won a landslide victory to become the next Czech president on January 29, told Czech media that he would ask the country's Supreme Audit Office (NKU) to conduct an in-depth audit at the Prague Castle offices, the presidential seat. Pavel added that he has indications that  law has been systematically transgressed by the staff of outgoing President Milos Zeman.

“What I have in mind is the way offices are led from the side by [Castle Chancellor] Vratislav Mlynar, the activities of [adviser] Martin Nejedly, and all that largely with the acknowledgment of Milos Zeman,” Pavel was quoted as saying in an interview with Reflex magazine.

Pavel added that the “office of the president has long not served its purpose, lost any self-reflection when it comes to transparent operations of high state office,” and that it “conducted extensive activities of its own, often in a grey zone, if not directly beyond the legal boundaries”.

Zeman has been known for his open friendship with Kremlin’s dictator Vladimir Putin. Although Zeman criticised Putin for the invasion of Ukraine, Zeman’s advisor Nejedly, who took part in several high-profile negotiations with Kremlin officials on behalf of Zeman, never rescinded his friendly views with the current Russian leadership.

Neither he nor Mynar ever won security clearance despite working closely with the president, who sees confidential material. The Presidential Office has been criticised for destroying confidential documents improperly, before it could be ascertained who had viewed them.

Prague Castle Chancellor Mlynar has been involved in several domestic controversies, including a presidential pardon of the head of the presidential forests administration at Lany, Milos Balak, who was sentenced to three years of imprisonment for his role in a corrupt CZK200mn public tender for the Klicava water retention project. Mlynar’s close collaborator Balak was given a presidential pardon in March 2022 without the office presenting any formal application for the pardon.

Pavel said he wants an “in-depth clearing” in all aspects and that “the reality I have been encountering – through indications – is much worse than I expected”. However, experts point out that such an audit may not be possible so quickly.  

Former presidential chancellor of Vaclav Havel, Ivo Mathe, told Czech Radio that Pavel “can ask the NKU for a control, but [NKU] won't be as flexible as even to commence it before March 9” when Pavel's inauguration is to take place. Moreover, “the nature of the control which NKU conducts is probably completely different than general Pavel has on his mind”, Mathe added.

A few days after his election, Pavel made headlines with his foreign policy-related comments and actions. On Monday, Pavel held a telephone conversation with Taiwanese leader Tsai Ing-wen and told her Czechia and Taiwan share democratic, freedom, and human rights values.

The call caused a backlash from Chinese diplomacy, which saw it as a challenge to one China policy, and prompted Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala to issue a statement in response to China saying that “as a sovereign state, we alone decide with whom we make phone calls”.

Pavel was also criticised on Twitter for saying of imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, "he’s definitely not a liberal democrat, he’s another kind of Russian nationalist".