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Czech President and government clash over promotion of counter-intelligence chief

Miloš_Zeman_2019

Prague, Czech Republic – President Milos Zeman has, once more, refused to promote Michal Koudelka, the head of the Czech counter-intelligence service (BIS), to the rank of general, sparking a row with the government.

Last week, deputy-Prime Minister Karel Havlicek announced that the government would propose the promotion of Michal Koudelka to the rank of general.

The honour was meant to be delivered on the anniversary of the foundation of Czechoslovakia, on October 28.

Under Czech law, such a proposal has to be approved by the head of state.

But President Zeman, who has often clashed with Koudelka in the past, promptly declared he would not approve the promotion of the BIS head, but would follow the government’s proposal for all other nominees.

This is the fifth time Zeman refuses to promote Koudelka to the rank of general.

The two men have a notoriously bad relationship. As head of the Czech counter-intelligence service since 2016, Michal Koudelka has been one of the most vocal figures warning of the threat posed by the espionage activities of Russian and Chinese services in the Czech Republic – accusations President Zeman, known for his close ties with Moscow and Beijing, has repeatedly denounced and dismissed throughout his tenure.

Several figures from across the political spectrum, including Jan Lipavsky from the Pirate Party and Vit Rakusan from the Mayor and Independents, swiftly criticized the president’s decision.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Andrej Babis told reporters he had spoken to Zeman about the issue. “I have a different opinion on this and I have no reason to change it”, he said, adding that Koudelka was doing a good job as head of the country’s counter-intelligence.

In an interview with local daily Mlada Fronta Dnes published on the same day, the Czech head of state said he would provide PM Babis with “material evidence” to justify his decision to reject Koudelka’s nomination to the rank of general.

Koudelka’s term as BIS head is set to run out next year.

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