The cabinet reshuffle, announced on Tuesday, brings to an end speculation over who will lead which ministries in the government’s final year-and-a-half. Despite criticism from the president and members of the opposition, Deputy Prime Minister Karolína Peake takes over as Defence Minister, while Zbyněk Stanjura, somewhat surprisingly, will serve as Minister of Transport.
At the weekend, President Václav Klaus questioned the wisdom of appointing Karolína Peake as the new defence minister, suggesting that soldiers would never accept a “dívenka” (or little girl) as head of the armed forces. The prime minister and the head of the Civic Democratic Party, Petr Nečas, clearly hopes the president is mistaken: on Tuesday announcing planned cabinet changes, he said he had full confidence in Mrs Peake as defence minister pointing out that women hold the post in three other NATO countries. Prime Minister Petr Nečas:
“The Czech Republic will be the fourth country in NATO that currently has a female defence minister. I want to emphasise that it is nothing out of the ordinary.”
The criticism may be more geared to the fact that Mrs Peake is no expert on military issues and can hardly expect to become one overnight. That said, the prime minister pointed out her experience on the State Security Council and intelligence committee, and stressed, above all, that the post of defence minister was political and managerial in nature. For her part, Karolína Peake explained that once she was appointed she would immediately begin dealing with the task at hand.
“Once the move is confirmed I will of course get down to business.”
The new transport minister, Zbyněk Stanjura, too, will have to get down to brass tacks very quickly, tackling problems at his ministry that needed
addressing “yesterday”. Problems to be dealt with include ironing out continuing glitches in the country’s on-line vehicle registration system, as well as, for example, dealing with the crisis at CD Cargo. He, like his newly-named colleagues, will have precious little time to get in the driver’s seat given the next election is only a year-and-a-half away. To further complicate matters is the fact that the Transport Ministry and that of Industry and Trade will merge as part of cost-saving measures.
His appointment and Mrs Peake’s as well as of a new minister without portfolio, Petr Mlsna, who will head the legislative council, has already come under fire from the opposition: Social Democrat shadow foreign minister Lubomír Zaorálek called the cabinet reshuffle “a reward” for those who had “helped the government survive”. It is the opposition’s view that any cabinet shuffle at this point won’t make much of a difference: simply said, time is running out.