Czech PM Necas says to step down amid graft scandal

PRAGUE (AFP) - Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas said on Sunday he would step down, amid a massive corruption scandal in which his top aide was indicted for bribery.

"I will step down as prime minister tomorrow. I am aware of my political responsibility," Mr Necas told reporters after talks in Prague with partners in his centre-right minority coalition government in power since July 2010.

"When I step down the entire government will step down in line with the constitution," Mr Necas said.

He said he would seek a new coalition led by a prime minister from his rightwing party that would garner sufficient support in the 200-seat parliament.

It was not immediately clear Sunday evening what action leftwing rival President Milos Zeman would take.

Mr Zeman demanded Mr Necas step down amid the scandal, while the president's leftwing allies, the opposition Social Democrats, had called for a snap election which opinion polls show they would win.

The next regularly scheduled election is in May 2014. Mr Necas has been leading a shaky minority coalition since 2012, which nonetheless survived several confidence motions.

Czech media said Sunday Necas's right-wing Civic Democrats now had time to look for a new prime minister among their ranks. Deputy party chairman Martin Kuba was tipped as a candidate.

The graft scandal rocking Prague erupted when police earlier this week raided the cabinet office, defence ministry, villas and a bank.

Mr Necas's chief of staff Jana Nagyova was on Friday charged with complicity in the "abuse of power and with bribery" and was placed in custody on Saturday.

Seven other people - including military intelligence heads and former lawmakers - have also been indicted for corruption among other alleged crimes.

The 48-year-old Nagyova was charged with bribery after allegedly promising three former lawmakers from Mr Necas's party lucrative jobs in state-run companies on condition they quit the parliament.

But police also uncovered instances in which they say Nagyova had abused her power, by asking the head of Czech military intelligence to tail the prime minister's wife Radka, 47, and two other people.

Mr Necas announced this week he was getting divorced from his wife after more than 25 years, amid media speculation that Nagyova was his lover.

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