As soon as the government holiday ends in mid-August, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš and Deputy Prime Minister Jan Hamáček will hold talks with President Miloš Zeman. They will follow him with a proposal to dismiss the current head of the Office for the Protection of Competition (ÚOHS) Petr Rafaj.
The chairman of the Antimonopoly Office, who oversees the observance of competition rules, is recalled (or appointed) by the president at the suggestion of the government. But neither Babiš nor Hamáček have said yet who they would want to head the office instead.
List In recent days, reports from three independent sources have come across speculation about the name of the former South Moravian governor Michal Hašek.
He throws and waits
The editors verified the information at several sources close to the Prime Minister Babiš, the Castle and the CSSD leadership. Everyone agreed that it was Hasek or his surroundings, from where information about the interest in the antitrust office spread. “Michal can do this, he will release the information into the space himself and wait to see if he will take it,” a lobbyist close to the Castle told the editors.
“A typical Hasek, his people in Brno started talking about it, the information traveled. She also got into the local security community, “added a lawyer close to the Office of the Government. “Although Michal works for social democracy now, he can also talk to Hamáček. Given his CV, however, I doubt that we would find the strength to push Hašek, “added a member of the CSSD leadership.
Hasek did not respond to the editorial staff’s repeated question as to whether he would be interested in running an influential office.
The former statutory deputy chairman of the CSSD, who was severed by the so-called Lán coup after the 2013 elections, was known for buying office. In 2013, the media counted him about 30 positions, which he held simultaneously. And even today it will not be idle.
He is currently leading the Social Democrats’ election campaign. However, he is also an advisor to the Minister of the Interior and the Minister of Agriculture and an assistant to MP Jiří Běhounek (for the CSSD).
On the one hand, his nomination as head of the antitrust authority would give a certain logic – that is, from the point of view of power. Hasek has always been close to the Castle and, as has already been said, it is the President who, on the proposal of the Government, appoints and dismisses the head of the Office. At the same time, he works for the CSSD, which is a coalition government party and will therefore participate in the selection of Rafaj’s successor.
However, where he would most likely come across would be the YES movement, whose boss Andrej Babiš has not been reaching out to Hašek for a long time. After all, this became clear at key moments after the elections in 2013, when Babiš preferred negotiations with Bohuslav Sobotka’s camp instead of Hašek’s wing, which subsequently drowned in lies around a secret meeting with the president at the castle in Lány.
However, any possible changes in the management of the Office will be based on the decision of President Miloš Zeman. However, according to Sources of News List, the head of state is likely to keep Rafaj in office. For several reasons.
First: Rafaj has less than a year left in office. Zeman may object that he would rather leave the current boss in office than destabilize the office by withdrawing Rafaj prematurely and searching for his deputy for several months.
Secondly, Rafaj has long been under the protection of the president and influential figures of Prague Castle, such as Martin Nejedlý’s adviser. Already last March, when the Brno corruption case Stoka and wiretaps between Rafaj and 1st Vice-President of ANO Jaroslav Faltýnek about the toll tender began to be disputed, President Zeman stood up for Rafaj. With the proviso that he would dismiss him only after a final judgment. Let us add that Rafaj is currently not even prosecuted.
Thirdly, anti-corruption non-profit organizations have come up with an initiative for Babiš’s government to take a critical stand against Rafaj and propose his dismissal. It can be said that Zeman does not like similar associations. It is hard to imagine that he would want to hear such a call (even if it was institutionally conducted through the government).
Fourthly, if Prime Minister Babiš keeps his word and proposes Rafaj’s appeal to Deputy Prime Minister Hamáček, a paradoxical situation will arise. The Prime Minister, who is himself being prosecuted in the Stork’s Nest case, will ask for the dismissal of the suspicious but un prosecuted manager.
In addition, Babiš wants Rafaj’s head, among other things, because of the case of the toll tender, in which the wiretaps captured Rafaj in secret conversations with the 1st vice-chairman of Babiš’s movement, Jaroslav Faltýnek. One can imagine how President Zeman would react to the scene.
Why do Babiš and Hamáček ask for an appeal
In order for Andrej Babiš and Jan Hamáček to succeed in the effort to remove Petr Rafaj from the president, they would have to agree with the Castle on a scenario of how to proceed after a possible removal of Rafaj – ideally on a new candidate.
In this regard, the List of Reports already informed last week that the first vice-president of the office, Hynek Brom, is being talked about behind the scenes as an adept. The CSSD and the surroundings of the Castle would probably agree on it, but Andrej Babiš would probably have a problem with the name of the former Pilsen ODS politician.
So far, it does not seem that the government and the Castle have prepared a clear scenario regarding Rafaj at the head of the Office. So why did Babiš and Hamáček go into it?
Personal reasons may have played a role – Babiš has long criticized the head of the antitrust office. In 2015, YES was against the government of Bohuslav Sobotka (ČSSD) confirming Rafaj at the head of the Office for the second six-year term. “I was called by the anti-corruption council and I received a letter from Ústí nad Labem, so yes, we are going there with this proposal,” Andrej Babiš answered last Monday when asked if he would propose to Rafaj his dismissal.
The head of the CSSD Hamáček again criticized the management of the Antimonopoly Office a year ago after the Office of Public Procurement dropped the tender of the Ministry of the Interior for the supply of police cars from Škoda Auto in Mladá Boleslav. “I have been dissatisfied with the work of the Office for a long time, I also have personal, departmental experience because the office does not work as it should from my point of view. The exchange is appropriate, “Hamáček said recently.
The Antimonopoly Office canceled the tender for cars for the police, and this was not the first time. Police are driving in cars that should have been taken out of service a long time ago. I am considering further legal action because the competition was not discriminatory and the police need a car!https://t.co/roEktgsYFv
– Jan Hamacek (@jhamacek) June 14, 2019
The events of recent months have further weakened Rafaj’s position. The name of the chairman has been discussed for a year and a half in the giant Stok corruption scandal. And in the case of the distribution of sports subsidies, Rafaj’s trips to football, which were paid by the main defendant in the case, Miroslav Pelta, were revealed.
Rafaj said in a statement to the media that he respects the government’s power to propose his dismissal, but does not believe that the conditions set by the Act on the Competence of the Office would be met for his dismissal. He denies any mistake or wrongdoing in the cited cases.
However, by the government’s intention to present a request for Rafaj’s dismissal to the president, he will at least take away political responsibility for the cases in which Rafaj’s name appears. After eventually remaining in charge of the antitrust office, criticism will fall primarily on President Zeman.