Czech Finance Minister Turns to Donors to Quell Campaign Attacks

Jan Fischer, installed as Czech finance minister last week, urged donors who helped pay off debts from his presidential campaign to reveal the origin of the money after parties accused him of a conflict of interest.

Fischer, who unsuccessfully ran in the country’s first direct presidential election this year, became a minister on July 10 when the interim cabinet of Premier Jiri Rusnok took office. He received about 5.3 million koruna ($270,000) between July 4 and July 9, with 1.3 million koruna as a cash deposit, according to Fischer’s account on his campaign website.

“I’m the only presidential candidate who’s being repeatedly attacked by the media and accused of a conflict of interest and alleged obligations to the donors,” Fischer said in an e-mailed statement today. “To end these unfounded attacks against me, I have publicly asked the donors, where there are any uncertainties, to dispel any doubts.”

By naming the technocrat cabinet, President Milos Zeman snubbed lawmakers from the three former ruling-coalition parties, who said they commanded a majority to stay in power after a spying and bribery scandal sank Petr Necas’s pro-austerity government last month. The Social Democrats, the largest parliamentary party, demanded early elections and attacked Fischer for what they said were unclear campaign finances.

The yield on 10-year government koruna debt, which reached an all-time low 1.48 percent on May 17, rose 1 basis point, or 0.01 percentage point, to 2.074 percent today, holding 51 basis points below comparable U.S. Treasuries, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Drab’s Cash

Fischer asked entrepreneur Ladislav Drab to disclose the origin of the cash deposit he had placed in the presidential campaign account, according to the statement. Another supporter, Stefan Havlik, must specify whether his contribution was a gift or a loan, Fischer said, adding he’ll return the money if the two don’t provide the clarifications by 4 p.m. on July 17.

Fischer has addressed his issues from the past and there’s nothing further to add to it, Rusnok was cited as saying by Lidove Noviny July 13.

The Czech Republic’s political turmoil, which erupted after the fall of Necas’s cabinet a month ago, risks extending the country’s longest recession on record. While the poll-leading Social Democrats demand early elections, the party lacks the 120 votes in the 200-seat lower house of parliament needed to dissolve the chamber. Lawmakers will debate a proposal to dissolve the assembly on July 17.

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