Stanislav Krecek, Zeman Ally and Former CSSD Parliamentarian, Appointed Ombudsman of the Czech Republic With Support From Far-Right
The appointment follows controversy over President Milos Zeman’s initial choice, due to her links to a Communist-era prosecutor. Krecek is the previous Deputy Ombudsman, and had serious disagreements with outgoing ombudswoman Anna Sabatova in that role. Photo credit: Stanislav Krecek / Facebook.
Brno, Feb. 19 (BD) – The position of public ombudsman/woman, also known as Public Defender, was established in 2000 and is considered an important political appointment in the Czech Republic, defending the rights of individual citizens in relation to various arms of the state. A recent series of controversies has concluded with the election on February 12th of veteran Social Democrat parliamentarian and former Deputy Ombudsman Stanislav Krecek as the new Ombudsman, replacing the outgoing holder of the office, liberal champion Anna Sabatova.
Zeman nominated his long-time ally Krecek to replace his initial choice for the role, Helena Valkova, a former ANO Justice Minister who is now the Czech government’s Independent Commissioner on Human Rights. Valkova’s nomination in December came under fire due to her previous membership of the pre-revolutionary Communist Party and the fact that she is a sitting parliamentarian.
The scandal escalated when it emerged in January that in 1979 she had co-authored a legal paper with Josef Urválek, the notorious prosecutor in Communist-era show trials including that of executed liberal politician Milada Horakova. In the paper, Valkova and Urvalek defended the practice of surveillance of dissident figures. Among the critics of Valkova’s nomination was TOP 09 leader Markéta Pekarová Adamová, who argued that “such a position should go to a person with a high level of moral credit, not to someone who was not only a Communist Party member during the previous regime, but also took part in defending the practices that were used against dissidents at the time.”
Following widespread criticism, Zeman withdrew his nomination and instead nominated Krecek. In the vote last week, Krecek received 91 of 175 votes cast, compared to 53 for Senate nominee Vít Alexander Schorm, who represents the Czech Republic at the European Court of Human Rights. At the age of 81, Krecek replaces Sabatova, a signatory and former spokeswoman for the Charter 77 movement widely regarded as a liberal defender of minority rights, whose six-year term ended yesterday. Voting took place by secret ballot, but based on public statements, the majority of Krecek’s support probably came from the ruling parties, ANO and Krecek’s own Social Democrats, as well as the Communist Party and the far-right SPD.
However, concerns persisted from various quarters about whether Krecek was the right candidate for a role which involves defence of citizens’ rights in the face of the decisions of government institutions. Sabatova was among those criticising Zeman’s choice for her replacement. The two had a series of serious disagreements while Krecek was Deputy Ombudsman, among them Krecek’s criticism of Sabatova’s support for the right of a Muslim schoolgirl to wear a religious headscarf, which was cited by Tomio Okamura of the far-right SPD as a reason they would support his nomination.
Krecek himself remarked that while he respected Sabatova, he “would take a different, more non-NGO approach. I would regard it more as a state office, whose duty is to re-examine decisions of other institutions. I wouldn’t bring in my own ideologies, for instance, about discrimination and so on. That doesn’t suit my approach.”
As well as Okamura, Krecek’s election was welcomed by far-right figures including Vaclav Klaus Jr. of the extra-parliamentary Tricolor party, and Tomas Vandas, leader of the neo-Nazi paramilitary group DSSS, who wrote on Twitter that he hoped Krecek’s election would “take the office from a nest of activism in support of migrants, parasites, and the socially maladjusted, back to its original goal.” Both Vandas and Klaus Jr. have repeatedly criticised the office as unnecessary and called for its abolition.
Ivo Bartos, head of the Czech Pirate Party, criticised Krecek’s election and the lack of a public ballot, remarking that “the Czech Republic and its people need somebody to advocate for them, and deserve a dignified ombudsman, not Prague Castle’s candidate.” Bartos added his doubts about Krecek’s personal suitability for the role, as “somebody who is not even fully apprised of the extent of the office’s activities, and whose statements show he is unable to set aside his own biases, to say nothing of defending the interest of somebody who is a victim of injustice.”