MP Zdenek OndraCek becomes head of a control commission in parliament. Before 1989, as a policeman, he beat up opposition members.
A post in exchange for support for his government: Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis Photo: dpa
Zdenek OndraCek’s first attempt – failed. On the second attempt, albeit only after several rounds, it worked. With just two votes to spare, the Czech Chamber of Deputies on Friday elected the communist by secret ballot as chairman of the parliamentary commission charged with overseeing the police.
OndraCek was elected because 21 deputies from opposition parties missed the vote. The ex-police officer from the Sudetes has been a deputy for the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSCM) since 2013. As recently as 2016, Communist Marta Semelova defended the Stalinist show trials of the 1950s and praised the invasion of Soviet tanks in 1968 as international aid.
In the October 2017 elections, the Communists plummeted to 7.8 percent. Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, who has ruled for four and a half months without a vote of confidence from parliament, however, needs their support for his minority government.
In exchange for posts and influence, the Communists are happy to give it to him. Or perhaps what belongs together is just coming together: in mid-February, the district court in Babiš’s hometown of Bratislava ruled that he was rightly listed in the archives as an agent of communist state security (StB agent).
Slap in the face
The fact that a former StB agent is in charge of the country’s destiny with the communists makes many Czechs wonder. The election of Zdenek OndraCek as the supreme guardian of the police authorities is a slap in the face for many.
For Zdenek OndraCek bludgeoned for the Communists during the "Palach Weeks" in January 1989, the first harbingers of the Velvet Revolution: as a "white helmet," a member of the beating brigades of the "National Security Corps" (SNB), he was on duty during the protests.
As a Communist Party security expert, he has also gained international experience: a snapshot from January 2016 shows OndraCek proudly in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine – in a group of green-clad tourists with Russian insignia.
As head of the Control Commission, OndraCek will now watch over the General Inspectorate of the Czech Police. The latter is currently pursuing a criminal case against Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, who is accused of EU subsidy fraud.
Whether OndraCek’s election will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back will be seen on Monday. A protest on the National Road in Prague already has 10,000 pledges and 30,000 interested on Facebook. Demonstrations have also been announced in other cities such as Brno, Ostrava and Liberec.