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Respekt in English

The Prime Minister in Love

And that is what the following story is about

Propuštění Jany Nagyové z vazby, Ostrava, 19. 7. 2013
Propuštění Jany Nagyové z vazby, Ostrava, 19. 7. 2013 • Autor: ISIFA / MAFRA / Adolf Horsinka

Translated by Lani Seelinger

In their first meeting, they didn’t speak to each other at all, and they only looked directly into each other’s eyes for a few seconds. But while Petr Nečas left the ODS managers’ conference without having remembered Jana Nagyová’s name, the bonds that would connect them over the next 17 years were of the tightest that can exist between two people. Petr Nečas himself, with his usual distance, sums it up in one sentence: “We have a relationship together, and the relationship is strong.” If we consider that it was this exact connection with Nagyová that blew up his career as prime minister, wrecked his family, and ruined his reputation as a “pure” man, these are words of love. And that is what the following story is about. 


It was an important message for Jana Nagyová. With his words about their “strong relationship,” Petr Nečas, in his very first newspaper interview after his resignation of the premiership, sent word to her jail cell that he still counts on her being in his life. Thus, Nečas’ fateful woman, who ended up in jail after extensive police raids on the suspicion of serious crime, could, after many days of uncertainty, lean on something other than the three novels that her family was allowed to send to her in jail. Until July 19, when Nagyová was released from jail, public interviews were the one possible channel through which Nečas could maintain contact with the now-former head of his now-former cabinet.

Because Nagyová had a limited number of visits owing to police fear that she would influence the witnesses, almost no one was allowed to come see her. So, only the detained woman’s eldest daughter visited her. Every letter that she wrote or that someone wrote to her went through strict censoring. Given that Nečas is an important witness in his subordinate’s case (he only escaped the charges himself because of political immunity), the two of them couldn’t exchange any correspondence without a police check.

“I’m going through a tough time right now, physically and psychologically,” said Nagyová, describing her condition during her detention. It happened that during her stay in jail, she had to go be a witness in the case of the former Head of Intelligence Karel Randák (whom the Nečas-controlled Cabinet Office criminally charged last fall for the alleged pronouncement about a 100,000-crown bonus given to Nagyová by the premier). The arrested director came before the court noticeably thinner in a black suit, and throughout her testimony, her voice and hands visibly shook. 

Proměny Petra Nečase. (zvolen místopředsedou strany, 2001)
Proměny Petra Nečase. (zvolen místopředsedou strany, 2001) • Autor: ČTK

Petr Nečas is also under a similar state of agitation. After his departure from Strakovka Academy, he requested the that driver still chauffer him in the state Škoda Superb for another three months – which the prime minister temporarily has the right to by law, even after his resignation – because he wouldn’t be able to drive himself due to a “bad psychological state.” This already-high level of stress has now multiplied, because recently Nečas hasn’t even known where to go to spend the night. He left their Prague flat to his long-time wife, and no later than a day after his resignation, he had to move out of the state Hrzánský Palace, where he had temporarily been living.

Because of a court-assessed alimony of more than 42,000 crowns, Petr Nečas doesn’t have the resources to obtain his own apartment at the moment, so the Chairwoman of the Deputies’ Chamber, Miroslava Němcová, quickly had to lend him a hand – she allocated him a one-bedroom flat in the deputies’ hostel on Nerudová Street, the only one that was free at the time. Nečas, who has right to it as a legislator from outside of Prague, then spent most of his time there.

A Star ascends

Back in 1996, Jana Nagyová was just going through the breakup of her marriage, and finding herself in a complicated life situation shortly after the death of her mother, who had helped to raise her two daughters, she felt the need to ease her pace. The job of Head of the Business Department of the Karlovy Vary-based glass company West Bohemia Glass was too time-consuming for Nagyová. Therefore, she started looking through ads and asking her acquaintances, which in the end directed her to the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) and eventually also to Petr Nečas.

In the beginning, she embedded herself in the regional ODS cell in the west Bohemian city, where at the time they were looking for an assistant to the regional manager and eventual senator, Vladimír Kulhánek. “I thought that I would be able to take care of my children better and have regular working hours,” said Nagyová in the magazine Týden, looking back on her start in politics when she was already heading up Nečas’ cabinet office. Anyway, she was somewhat misleading with this, as she later confessed; not only did the work not lessen, but they also gradually started to involve her more in the preparations for various elections. However, Nagyová couldn’t leave anymore. 

Proměny Petra Nečase. (s manželkou a synem před volbami, 2010)
Proměny Petra Nečase. (s manželkou a synem před volbami, 2010) • Autor: ČTK

“She got emotionally attached to it, she evidently enjoyed being the centerpiece of important developments. She found herself in this,” recalls her once-boss Vladimír Kulhánek. He also describes his then-friend Nagyová as a hardworking and very ambitious woman who definitely did not stay in the background when someone with high party-status arrived from the center of Prague. She quickly started talking with majority of the politicians in question, and somehow this way her relationship with Petr Nečas also started to take form. For several years it was very sporadic, only during Nečas’ occasional trips out to Karlovy Vary or during chance encounters at the Senate, where Nagyová went with Kulhánek for regular monthly sessions.

Nečas and Nagyová started to grow closer after her full transfer to Prague with her daughters in 2005, when she won exclusive control as the Head of the Operations Department for the countrywide main ODS office at the end of Vladimír Kulhánek’s senatorial career. According to witnesses from then, this was when she captured the attention of the meticulous Nečas. She always fulfilled all of his requirements down to the smallest detail, from arranging his trips and meetings with voters and party members throughout the Czech Republic that he often had to take part in as the deputy chairman of ODS, to setting up the foundations of his electoral campaigns.

“She had quick judgment, she was very hardworking, a terrific organizer. She always showed a lot of loyalty,” said premier Nečas to Respekt some time ago about why it was she in particular, along with one other man, eventual speaker Jiří Sezemský, whom he brought along from the party office into ministry work and social issues in Mirek Topolánek’s government. For Nagyová, the new position of Director of the Ministry Cabinet was an unequivocal advancement.

They had offices side by side, and from that moment she was the absolute closest person to him. After finishing his engagement with the ministry, Nečas, who had the political reputation of being an extremely untrustworthy man, primarily emphasized Nagyová’s discretion and stressed that thanks to her, no sensitive information that could harm him had escaped from his political background. Just as she was important to Nečas, Nečas was also important for Jana Nagyová. The lucky star of the longtime “number two man” actually rose up in politics, and when Nečas became the ministerial chairman, it also opened up a journey to a big career and a large influence for his longtime secretary. 

Proměny Petra Nečase. (v křesle premiéra, 2011)
Proměny Petra Nečase. (v křesle premiéra, 2011) • Autor: Milan Jaroš

Two fried cheeses, one salad

At the same time, Jana Nagyová was ascending into ministerial work as a person who quickly becomes accustomed to power. When disagreements took place, her importance manifested itself in raised voices and slammed doors. She wanted her subordinates to write a dissertation for her; she scolded the driver of the ministry limousine for a badly cleaned car. The need to make her superiority evident to her subordinates then unfurled itself at full blast with her entry into the cabinet office, even down to the smallest details. For example, at some point last year when the head of the prime minister’s cabinet was spending a few free days at her apartment in Prague-Modřany, she got a craving for fried cheese.

According to Respekt’s information, she then called into her office for them to send for the cook, so that he could make it for her and have it sent over by the service car. When the driver brought it to her, she felt the cheese and got angry because it had cooled down on the trip over. She therefore sent the driver back to the kitchen with the message that they should wrap up some new cheese for her, this one just with the batter, so that she could cook it for herself at home. However, she wasn’t satisfied with the second one either. Although the cheese was prepared according to her wishes this time, in the process she had forgotten that a salad would also go well with it. So, the government limousine had to go through the same journey again.

Similar demands often repeated themselves around Nagyová. Because of her fondness for food, she would send for dinners at expensive restaurants, or make her subordinates take her dogs out. She forced a few officials from outside of Prague who, like her, were staying at the government Hrzánský Palace – like, for example, the National Anti-Drug Coordinator Jindřich Vobořil – to carry their suitcases by hand when they arrived on Sunday night from their homes so that the wheels bumping on the cobblestones in front of the Hrzánský building wouldn’t disturb her.

It was due to this kind of behavior that her subordinates in the Cabinet Office started to refer to her by the nickname of “Czarina,” with reference to her extremely varied whims accompanied by often-changing moods, and at the same time to her obviously sumptuous lifestyle (she outfitted her apartment in the Hrzánský Palace with expensive Italian furniture). She would quickly and uncompromisingly part ways with those who wouldn’t submit to her behavior. In three years, six secretaries, four speakers, and another three secretaries and various other long-time officials at the prime minister’s office were replaced. The majority of the employees at the Cabinet Office, however, submitted to Nagyová without objection. 

Proměny Petra Nečase. (s Janou Nagyovou v zádech, kongres ODS, 2012)
Proměny Petra Nečase. (s Janou Nagyovou v zádech, kongres ODS, 2012) • Autor: Globe Media / Reuters

Now, with distance, this explains the fear of losing employment that introduced a serious existential problem for some (like the Head of the Cabinet Office Lubomír Poul, who had a high mortgage on a new house paid off on his high salary). Even though Poul didn’t agree with Nagyová and walked out of meetings with her sweaty and with a shaking voice, he never came out more vigorously against her, even though he was formally her superior. He agreed to the firing of others and covered the director’s excesses with his speaker. However, none of this would have been possibly anyway if Prime Minister Nečas had not intervened in time. Nothing ever came right up to this.

We’re running the country, do not enter

The prime minister’s unwillingness to address Nagyová’s various excesses stems from the fact that she had been the only one who he trusted for a long time, and when he heard critical information about her, he would ask her to put it into context. The prime minister, whose favorite joke amongst a close circle of friends was “just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not coming for me,” then often surrendered to various conspiratorial theories because of his director’s explanation – according to Nagyová there would always be godfathers to account for complaints, or domestic opponents seeking rude slanders to make him argue with his closest and most loyal person.

Instead of finding out if this was really the case, Nečas automatically assumed this position. And by communicating less and less with people other than his secretary (he only communicated with this ten-member team of advisors in writing, and he limited questions purely to the those regarding individual laws and he only set them up himself), he prevented himself from the possibility of seeing reality from the viewpoint of other participants. At the same time, Nagyová was doing everything in her power to isolate Nečas from them and create a wall around him against viewpoints other than the ones she was offering.

One of her first actions upon entering the Cabinet Office was to change the seating arrangement in the office such that their offices would be directly connected, so that they could go into each other’s offices without the knowledge of the secretaries or the other people. She put a sign over the exterior entrance of their joint workspace with “Do not enter” in bright red lettering. Nečas approved all of this, while at the same time entrusting Nagyová with arranging the majority of his meetings and deciding who would be able to meet with him and who wouldn’t. 

Osudové okouzlení. Ale proč? (Soud s Karlem Randákem, kam byla Nagyová převezena z vazby, Praha, 15…
Osudové okouzlení. Ale proč? (Soud s Karlem Randákem, kam byla Nagyová převezena z vazby, Praha, 15. 7. 2013) • Autor: Karel Cudlín

Nagyová only allowed a minimum number of visitors to Nečas (even ODS ministers had to meet directly with her), and she met with the majority alone and then conveyed the contents of the conversation to the prime minister according to her considerations. Once again, the prime minister had no objections; he even went further. Even though he must have had a vivid image of his two predecessors, who stopped running the country’s administration when they broke up their families, before his eyes, he knowingly started to put himself onto the same collision course. Nagyová, of course, played a key role in this.

Don’t be alone

For a long time, everything seemed to be fine. Even as the Prime Minister, Petr Nečas kept going home in the evening as the “exemplary father,” but in reality, his more than 20-year relationship with qualified teacher Radka was starting to fray at the edges. In the last three weeks, Respekt has repeatedly spoken with people from the Nečas’ circle of friends, who have described the estrangement of the Nečas pair under the condition of anonymity. The demands of the position of prime minister led to many conflicts that gradually took up all of Nečas’ energy. He didn’t play sports and he had a bad daily regiment, so day after day he returned home utterly exhausted.

So whenever his wife wanted to start to talk about something, Petr Nečas refused, because he needed at least a moment to completely turn off. Nevertheless, when he extracted the remainder of his energy and put it into a conversation, he realized that he didn’t actually have much to say to his wife. While he wanted to analyze current political problems that he was living with, Radka Nečasová wasn’t really interested. She had spent the last 15 years at home raising their four children, who were the center of her world. Although Nečas loved his children and had, and still has, a great relationship with them, the kind of talk she pulled from him always went from analyzing domestic life to dealing with his everyday agenda as the prime minister. Incomprehension, which Nečas didn’t have time to resolve because of his overall workload, deepened the other issues between the pair. Later on, he didn’t even try. Although his wife wanted to accompany him to cultural events or on various trips abroad, like to see the pope in the Vatican, Nečas still wasn’t interested and preferred to take Nagyová.

Jana Nagyová
Jana Nagyová • Autor: Ilustrace – Pavel Reisenauer

So, over the last year, Radka Nečasová started talking with her friends about a “large isolation,” and the prime minister no doubt felt similarly. He, however, found the ever-more frequently demanded understanding and feeling of certainty and safety in the personal company of his secretary. While he was a complete introvert, a strength and energy always emitted from Nagyová, which he loaded up on. At the same time, the huge trauma because of a possible divorce and its affect on the two still-underage children clutched at him more and more. Outwardly it manifested itself in an effect already recognizable from the time of Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek’s divorce – in the face of a politician who used to be relaxed and cheerful, an angry and haggard version of a man appeared, who was perpetually under stress and on guard.

The fact is, Nečas was a lot more careful than his predecessors were about keeping this from affecting his relationship. Among other things, this was because the confirmation of an extramarital affair could compromise a lot more for him – a deeply believing Catholic, who always stressed morality and family values in his speeches – than for someone else. Therefore, he started secretly meeting Nagyová at Hrzánský Palace, where he was taken into the interior by limousine, so that no one could spot him. He, like her, had a government flat there.

What exactly in his secretary so enraptured the perfect Petr Nečas that he ruined his marriage because of it isn’t entirely clear. Although many speculate behind closed doors that he discovered an unexpected virility thanks to his fateful love, no one really has any idea. “I don’t know,” answers long-time politician, fellow Catholic, and Nečas’ political ally Marek Benda to a question about what at the top of politics is so destructive that the prime ministers of this country repeatedly can’t handle their relationships, which then has a fundamental effect on the government of the entire country.

According to psychologists, politics absolutely creates an environment that plays to the collapse of marital relations, because it includes demanding work, a world of tough competition for power, and a position that introduces trials for more than one functioning family. A top politician immediately finds himself outside of his natural territory, where often only enemies or servile minions surround him. “They’ll often start to have common experiences with fellow party members, advisors, and assistants, and there’s not any time or mental energy left to care for the original relationship,” says Jitka Douchová of Prague’s Center for Family, Marriage, and Interpersonal Relationships to Respekt a while ago. “It’s extremely difficult for a politician in a high position to keep a functioning family.” And then it’s more in this case, when two unbalanced personalities like Nečas and Nagyová collide.

Nighttime reflection

On that fateful Wednesday night, Minister of Justice Pavel Blažek had already been at his Prague apartment for an hour. He just wanted to let go of the night’s news and have a glass of beer after the evening’s cabinet meeting, when suddenly his phone beeped with the name Petr Nečas. The sentence that he immediately heard from Nečas’ mouth caught Blažek completely off guard. “They’ve arrested Jana, it’s serious, get over here now,” said the prime minister. Blažek, without any idea of what was going on, hurriedly started to look around for his driver, who he had sent home earlier.

At that point, the police had already been interrogating Jana Nagyová for two hours. Detectives at the Unit for the Detection of Organized Crime (ÚOOZ) had come to her Modřany flat for her; she had a week off at the time, but she happened to be there. Initially Nagyová didn’t want to open up for them – she only did so at their third call. Her youngest daughter got home from an evening walk, and then she called the prime minister with the message about her mother’s arrest (the policemen still hadn’t let her inside). He then immediately called various deputies to his office – besides Minister Blažek, he also called Minister of the Interior Jan Kubice and police president Martin Červíček. Meanwhile, top state deputy Ivo Ištvan informed his superior that he needed to discuss something important with the prime minister.

titulka ipad
titulka ipad • Autor: Respekt

“Five minutes after I sat down in the prime minister’s office, there was a knocking at the door, and in walked Head of ÚOOZ Robert Šlachta and Mr. Ištvan,” says now-former minister Blažek, looking back on it now. For the majority of the time, both ministers and the police president kept quiet, as did the prime minister. Šlachta explained to Nečas that the police suspected Jana Nagyová of having the secret service follow Nečas’ wife (her motive, according to the police’s strong belief, was to gather compromising information that she could use to prompt the premier to get a quicker divorce) and for bribing three ODS deputies not to uphold their threat of not approving laws of Nečas’ government.

According to witnesses present, the prime minister was visibly shaken by the information. Still, when he bid farewell to Šlachta, he told him to “do [his] work.” Immediately afterwards, the police task force entered into the Cabinet Office (they sealed Nagyová’s office and confiscated several documents), and over the following 24 hours, about 400 policemen made raids in various places in the country (they confiscated more documents and performed many house searches; some of the police raids were meant to tie knots around the so-called godfathers, whom the detectives suspected of various illegal activities in connection with politicians, of course not including the prime minister).

So, the biggest police raid in the upper spheres of this country’s politics entered into a deciding phase. And Petr Nečas’ high level career also entered into a deciding phase. After the detectives had left them, he sat with the other participants in the meeting for another minute. In a late-night more personally tuned conversation, he regretted that Nagyová had ended up in jail because of him (he had had to entrust her with the arrangement of the newsstands). At about four in the morning, he said goodbye to the men present and stayed in his office alone.

In the morning, then, he only told his secretaries not to let anyone in to see him, and he continued with his solitary reflection. His head advisor Tomáš Vrbík and long-time coworker Jiří Sezemský, who had come running to his office as soon as they had found out about the news on the internet, got to his office in the early afternoon (and eventually state spokesman Jan Hrubeš came to him as well). He then called them and some other coworkers into a quick meeting about whether to react to the situation that had arisen with a press announcement or a public appearance. He apparently looked tired out, but still no emotion made itself apparent.

When more precise information about what Jana Nagyová was actually being charged with started to leak out to the public, Nečas quickly called together the deputies of his party, apologized to them for the political complications, and started to explain to them that he personally had not permitted anything illegal. At the same time, he went outside the door of the meeting for about ten minutes, where he called his children and explained to them that he didn’t know anything about their mother’s monitoring, and that he didn’t have anything to do with it. “He spoke emotionally, he kept apologizing and regretting what happened,” describes one of the ODS deputies who heard a part of Nečas’ conversation. Four days later, Nečas resigned from the post of Czech prime minister.

His stance towards the events is always the same: he didn’t have the slightest idea that his mistress was having the secret service follow his wife, but it didn’t seem fatal in any way, it was actually only a bit of superfluous “professional zealousness.” (Nagyová talks about her move as an effort to protect Radka Nečasová from some nearby unspecified threat.) In the same way, Nečas denies anything punishable in the trade with the rebelling deputies, who received good positions in state administration in exchange for not tripping up his cabinet. The prime minister marks this as a political operation that is not punishable, which Nagyová additionally carried out at his order. And minimally, in the part dealing with the corrupt newsstands, the judiciary had already allowed Nečas to be truthful, when the Supreme Court stopped the prosecution of the former deputies as illegal and released them from jail. Nagyová also went free shortly after that, but the police are still prosecuting her.

Straighten out your life

After Petr Nečas turned in the keys to the crown jewels at the Cabinet Office building, he went to his absolute last press conference as the prime minister. “It’s a place where a man is really alone,” he said next to his standing successor Jiří Rusnok moments after leaving Strakova Academy, where he had spent the last three years of his life.

About a half hour later, Nečas driver stops in front of parliament. The ex-prime minister takes various documents and files of laws that were approved during his government out of the car. The limousine drives away, and Nečas collects the files and full bags from the ground and tries to take them all inside. For a moment, he stands on the street completely alone. When he catches sight of a journalist waiting just steps away, he moves towards the doors so as to avoid an interview. But with an armful of paper, the doors are difficult for him to open, and so before he gets to the entrance turnstile that no one besides politicians can cross, there’s space for one question.

“For the last 21 years, you’ve done nothing but politics – do you think that you’ll come back to it?” Meanwhile, Nečas has opened the turnstile with a beep and passed into safety by the skin of his teeth. “I’m not thinking about that at all right now,” he answers, already in the parliamentary untouchable zone. He later confided to his friends that his first priority is to purify his name and straighten out his personal life. He is not, however, counting on his nearly former wife Radka much for this. After Jana Nagyová’s release, Petr Nečas waited for her in front of the gates of the prison. The ex-prime minister and his former director briefly embraced, kissed, and then left together. 

Text Zamilovaný pan Nečas vyšel v Respektu č. 31/2013

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