Czech spy chief Petr Mlejnek has bowed to the mounting pressure against him in recent weeks and has resigned over his contacts with a businessman who has been taken into police custody as one of the leading figures in a political corruption case.
The resignation of the head of the foreign intelligence agency comes as the government faces a vote of no confidence on September 1 over his appointment called by opposition parties.
The revelation of the business links of Mlejnek has led to calls for the resignation of Vit Rakusan, interior minister and Mayors and Independents (STAN) party leader, who appointed him two months ago, though so far Prime Minister Petr Fiala, leader of the Civic Democrats (ODS), has said he has full confidence in his minister and coalition partner.
Populist opposition leader Andrej Babis, a controversial billionaire who is himself facing several police probes, said his ANO party will still go ahead with the vote of no-confidence, and ANO still demands the resignation of Rakusan.
In the aftermath of the growing scandal over a kickback scheme at the Prague Transportation Company which is rocking the Mayors Party leadership, Mlejnek admitted to had been in touch with Michal Redl, the Mayors party sponsor.
Moreover, Mlejnek was yet to obtain top-level security clearance.
Several high-ranking representatives of Mayors have resigned from their party posts over their contacts with Redl, including STAN founder Petr Gazdik and MEP Stanislav Polcak.
Mlejnek's resignation was also supported by STAN's coalition partners, the Pirate Party, who this week demanded his resignation.
Rakusan and Premier Petr Fiala had stood by Mlejnek, and will be damaged by his resignation. Rakusan regretted the news of his resignation, tweeting that Mlejnek had “all the provisions to carry out his post well”.
“I understand his decision, the pressure on him, his family and agency itself, has been enormous”, added Rakusan.
The Pirate Party praised Mlejnek’s decision and Fiala said he is expecting the situation around the intelligence agency to calm down in the coming days.
Fiala’s five-party coalition has a comfortable majority of 108 in the Chamber of Deputies of 200 and is expected to win the vote of no-confidence easily.
However, the vote could allow ANO to whip up public discontent over rising costs of living, accusing Fiala’s cabinet of inaction.
In doing so ANO will also conveniently divert attention away from Babis’ own scandals, which include the EU suing Czechia over EU subsidies Babis’ food and agricultural conglomerate Agrofert obtained while Babis was in power.