Andrej Babiš’ government has finetuned its policy programme after meetings with the country’s biggest employers’ group, trade unions, and the body representing local councils. The new policy programme is clearly a bid to win support in a first vote of confidence vote scheduled to take place on Wednesday.
Andrej Babiš’ government approved a new look government programme on Monday. The biggest change to the previous programme put together in mid-December is a preamble and six-point series of priorities.
The preamble to the new policy programme makes clear it’s an overt bid to win support in the lower house confidence vote with the target audience the 200 lawmakers who can take part. It claims parts of the programme reflect the views of other parties and says this is a chance for them to see some of their election promises put into effect.
"As a whole the proposed programme now has a preamble where we talk about six main points. The first is a digitalised Czech Republic, where the government will make every effort to push through electronic systems in the state administration and Internet access for everyone. Secondly, we want to be visible within Europe. That means that we will fight for our national interests and fight against [immigration] quotas and uphold the Czech Republic’s interests.
"There is an investment plan for the country. That covers building flats not just for the elderly but also for young families. There is pensions’ reform. And we want to get started on reform of the state. That means a balanced budget and a new law on income tax, frequent checks on regulated prices, and a fight against loan sharks. And the sixth point is increased security. That means not just increased safety of citizens as such but also energy security, food security, and security of raw materials."
Some of the detailed takeaways from the new look programme are free rail travel for the elderly over 65 and the same for school pupils and students below 26 years of age. That’s a policy already in force in neighbouring Slovakia.
And there’s a promise of a new law on nationwide referenda, the details of which still have to be thrashed out and elaborated in talks with other parties. That’s a clear nod in the direction of Tomio Okamura, the leader of the Party of Freedom and Direct Democracy, which won 22 seats in the lower elections in October’s elections and alongside the Pirate Party is the third biggest force in the chamber.
On it’s own, Andrej Babiš ANO party, while the clear winner of those elections and by far the biggest party with 78 seats, falls well short of the 101 votes needed for an absolute majority. Negotiations with other leaders have failed to bring on side other parties so far with only the communists saying they might tolerate a minority ANO government. Wednesday’s confidence vote is not expected to give prime minister Babiš a majority – but it should be a pointer how close he is and what the other parties want in exchange for support. A second attempt at winning a confidence vote has been promised by head of state, Miloš Zeman.