More than one thousand social media users have shared posts over the past two weeks claiming that Prime Minister Petr Fiala has chosen Pavel Novotný, the controversial mayor of Řeporyje, as an advisor. This is false, according to both a government spokesperson and Novotný himself. The photograph of the two men that accompanies the posts was taken in 2019, before Novotný was threatened with expulsion from the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) for making inappropriate statements about some Czech and international politicians. His name also does not appear on the official list of Fiala’s advisers.
“The prime minister has a new adviser – he chose the public ‘idiot’ Novotny,” reads the mostly widely-shared post from January 18, 2022. “Even the biggest boor must be ashamed of a sh*t like Novotny, whereas our Prime Minister, an academic, is of a different opinion. He is his friend,” the post continues.
The newly elected Prime Minister Petr Fiala announced the list of his advisors on 17 January 2022. The team consists of renowned economists, doctors and experts in education and other fields. Novotný’s name does not appear on the list.
Government spokesman Václav Smolka confirmed that Novotný is not Fiala’s advisor even in an unofficial capacity: “Mr Novotný is not an adviser to the prime minister,” Smolka told AFP via SMS on February 1, 2022.
This was also confirmed by Novotný, whom AFP reached by phone: “It’s nonsense,” the mayor said. “Petr [Fiala] is guarded like treasure, they would never let me near him!”
Novotný, the enfant terrible of the Civic Democrats
It’s true that Fiala has maintained friendly relations with Novotný in the past. In fact, the photo accompanying the false text on Facebook proves this. It was taken in October 2019, when Petr Fiala, as ODS chairman, visited the Prague district of Řeporyje, of which Novotný is mayor. At the time, Fiala supported Novotný in his dispute with Communist MP Zdeněk Ondráček. The daily Blesk wrote about the event and the photo of the two politicians holding the jersey is part of the photo gallery from the meeting.
Shortly thereafter, however, Fiala’s relationship with Novotný began to sour. The mayor has never made any secret of his distaste for the Russian Federation, whose representatives he irritated with his plan to erect a monument in Řeporyje to the soldiers of the Russian Liberation Army led by the anti-Soviet General Vlasov, who are considered traitors in Russia.
In December 2019, when he was interviewed by Zvezda – the official TV of the Russian Defense Ministry – Novotný caused a scandal by declaring that if he ever won the war with Russia, he would have Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov hanged. Tomáš Petříček, the Foreign Minister at the time, publicly distanced himself from Novotný’s statement and advised the mayor to apologize to the Russians, which Novotný refused to do.
Fiala finally ran out of patience with Novotný last September after the municipal politician said it was in the country’s interest for then-Prime Minister Andrej Babiš and President Miloš Zeman to die. In interviews at the time, Fiala said of Novotný that “his insults are beyond all limits and it makes a decent person uncomfortable”, adding: “I am not amused or interested in his provocations”.
Although Novotny managed to salvage his membership in the ODS, he admitted after meeting Fiala that what he said was “far beyond the acceptable”.
In March 2021 Novotný threatened to leave the party because he was not nominated for the national election ballot. However, in the end he chose to remain in the ODS, albeit still only at the municipal level. He doesn’t work as an advisor to Prime Minister Fiala.