Czechs target rampant political corruption

The Czech government on Wednesday approved a bill requiring political parties to publish financial statements on the Internet in a bid to curb corruption ahead of elections next year.

"We want the law in force to cover 2014 with general and EU elections in May and local elections in October," Prime Minister Petr Necas told reporters, adding he expected the bill to ensure "transparent financing and control over such financing."

To take effect, the bill must be passed by parliament in which Necas's centre-right government, having lost its majority, relies for survival on former members sitting as independents.

The bill is part of an anti-graft legislative drive which also includes a provision stripping lawmakers and constitutional court judges of lifetime immunity from criminal prosecution, to take effect in May.

It requires a parliamentary green light for the prosecution of sitting members of parliament, but allows prosecutors to take action as soon as a lawmaker loses their mandate.

Since mid-2010 parliament has stripped the immunity of six active lawmakers, all in a string of high-profile graft cases.

A total of 18 Czech lawmakers have been stripped of immunity since 1993, mostly for graft but also for xenophobia, fraud and tax evasion.

Global anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International ranked the Czech Republic high for perceived graft in public life, lagging behind countries like Rwanda or Georgia.

Rampant corruption even spurred the creation of a tour company last year in Prague showing tourists round places linked to graft, including posh villas owned by influential entrepreneurs dubbed "nesting birds" by the agency.

The first attempt at restricting the immunity of lawmakers took place in 1995, six years after the end of communism in the former Czechoslovakia, which split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993.