[Please note the correction added at the end of this blogpost.]
Now here’s a tweet you don’t see every day! It has to do with Václav Klaus, now the former President of the Czech Republic, but it’s not just about his departure from that office:
Velezradu: “treason.” So that’s “Senate must decide whether to charge Klaus with treason.”
“What’s that all about!” you might ask. It is a pretty poor good-bye present, don’t you think? Why couldn’t the Senate just have handed the ex-President a nice necktie, or maybe a gold pen?
But OK, this is fairly easy to explain in an American context, for those out there with long-enough memories. You might recall that the dying days of the Clinton Administration, back in early 2001, were rather by the ridiculous pardons Bill Clinton started handing out, most especially to Marc Rich, the financier who had made sure he was out of the country when he was indicted by the IRS for tax evasion.
Well, Václav Klaus did much the same thing as the end of his presidential term started to come within sight.around last New Year’s Day. He issued a wide series of pardons which mainly went – in a similar manner to Marc Rich, funnily enough – to businessmen guilty of abusing the Czech Republic’s system of “coupon privatization” for disposing of State-owned properties back in the 1990s, by “tunneling” many of those companies, i.e. systematically stealing their assets, sucking them dry, then escaping to foreign lands with well-stocked Swiss bank accounts. It’s no coincidence that by far the major actor involved in getting coupon privatization going was then-Premier Václav Klaus.
(OK, the České noviny report that you get when you click through the link in the abovre tweet also says that the Senate has also charged him with further harming the Czech national interest by refusing to sign duly-ratified laws that he didn’t like – for example, the EU’s Lisbon Treaty – and by paralyzing the country’s court system by refusing to nominate any new justices for a whole year.)
Well, it’s the justices of the Czech Republic’s Supreme Court which now get to preside over an impeachment trial:
Senát schválil ústavní žalobu na Václava Klause. Z 68 přítomných senátorů pro žalobu hlasovalo 38, proti 30.
Right, the vote among Senators was 38 in favor, 30 against. This probably isn’t about Klaus actually ever going to jail, though. Just as elsewhere, impeachment is mainly a matter of removing a sitting President who can be shown to have violated the law in a serious way. Conveniently, the Senate waited until Klaus had already left office – but he still stands to lose the payments he is still due from being President (e.g. his pension, though he has other pensions) if he is convicted.
BTW that same article has an instant mini-poll to the side showing 69% approving of the impeachment. Those numbers might change by the time you access that page later.
So Václav Klaus, second President of the Czech Republic, is not just going to fade away into the sunset; the Senate won’t let him. Things could get exciting!
P.S. Apologies that the IDNES tweet above announcing the result of the Senate impeachment vote did not have the usual link within it to allow you to go look at a Czech-language article. But let’s give IDNES (= the on-line paper of the Czech Republic’s biggest non-tabloid daily, Mladá fronta dnes) a bit of a break, they’ve had a hard time:
České zpravodajské servery čelí druhé vlně počítačových útoků. Weby iDNES.cz tak mohou být opět problematicky dostupné. Situaci řešíme.
That’s right, they’ve been hacked! There’s a lot of that going around among news organizations these days. Should you desire to access their website, it might not be working quite yet.
CORRECTION: Klaus has not yet left the Czech Presidency, his last day is 7 March 2013. So the Senate’s action has caught him in the last days of his term. Naturally, there is hardly enough time to resolve the treason charges during his remaining time in office, so this impeachment cannot have the effect of removing him as president.