The new centre-right coalition government has pledged to implement a series of reforms, reforms that could possibly put its stability to the test. That’s what president Klaus might have had in mind when he asked the new cabinet to “carry out reforms, not a revolution”. Radio Prague spoke to political analyst Jiří Pehe and asked him which way he thought we were heading.
“It certainly seems that the government put together – at least in the form of its coalition agreement – a very radical programme of reforms, based on cuts and reforms of various areas, including welfare and the economy. If all of those changes were put in place, it would certainly be more of a revolution, a fundamental change of the social system, rather than just fine-tuning of the existing system.”
Which of the areas the new government is planning to reform are the tricky ones, where the approaches of the three parties – the Civic Democrats, TOP 09 and Public Affairs – differ most?
“Given the difficulties on reaching an agreement on the reform of the pension system, it seems that the most contentious point will be the pension reform, and that is linked to many other issues, such as increasing or not increasing taxes and so on. So I think that will be a problem for the governing coalition.
“But there will be even smaller issues which may have to with public opinion. We simply don’t know how the public will react to these reforms, and we have to bear in mind that two of the three political parties are new political subjects which have not been tested in any difficult situation. So if the public turns against some of the reforms, the popularity of the government parties will fall, and we might see some problems within the ruling coalition.”
The coalition has 118 seats in the 200-member lower house but as you said some of the parties lack political experience, particularly Public Affairs. How stable do you the coalition will be?
“I think that despite this large majority in the Chamber of Deputies, the coalition will not be very stable, and this is simply because two of the three parties are new, untried. Moreover, the Public Affairs party in particular is basically just a firm conducting its business in the field of politics. As such, I think it will be very prone to panic when their profits start dropping.
“We may see this already in the fall during the municipal elections when voters will have the first chance to express their opinions about the reforms. If Public Affairs, which expect to do very well in the elections, does not do as well, then we might see real tremors in the ruling coalition.”