Negotiations over forming a minority Czech government between the dominant ANO party and the Social Democrats have been wrapped up regarding the outstanding policy issues. But the Czech communists, whose support is crucial for a new government, have dropped what amounts to a bombshell, warning that they will not line up with the minority government if a pledge to boost Czech foreign missions is not dropped.
The leader of the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSČM) Vojtěch Filip issued his warning at the weekend. Party leaders are angered at the pledge in the draft ANO and Social Democrat coalition agreement pledging to boost Czech participation in foreign missions in Afghanistan and Iraq. They are also looking askance at the possibility that the Czech army might commit itself to take part in a NATO rapid reaction force for the Baltic States.
Bluntly put, Filip warned that if these commitments remain then a future ANO-led coalition government cannot count on its 15 members of the 200 strong lower house voting for key legislation.
This is how communist member of parliament, Stanislav Grospič, described the party’s stand to Czech Radio and said it had already flagged up the foreign missions issue in talks with ANO:
ʺWe gave notice of this demand. We also said publicly that there were certain differences on the issue. We think that the current commitments of the Czech Republic should be respected but we have a real problem with a Czech Army mission in the Baltics. We do not think that the government should widen or deepen its commitments regarding these things. The status should remain as it is, or rather, these things should be wound down.ʺ
And the communists are reported to have problems with other reforms as well, such as moves to reform the current pensions system and separate financing from the overall state budget. And they have hinted that they want their share of posts on the boards of state companies and a say on ministers in the new Cabinet.
ANO’s deputy chairman Richard Brabec said he was surprised by the bluntness of the communists’ demand on foreign missions but the party’s policy stance was already broadly known.
But the demand has opened up fresh debate within the Social Democrat party about whether it’s just the ANO party of prime minister Andrej Babiš that should be leading talks to make sure the communists are fully on board supporting the government or whether they should be involved as well.
Haunted in part by a past party resolutions never to do a deal with the communists, some Social Democrat party leaders say it’s solely an ANO issue and they should not sign up to anything. Others warn that any ANO commitments to the communists will clearly impact the whole coalition government.
Those divisions come against the backdrop of the party’s pending drawn out referendum on the final coalition deal with ANO which is due to start in a week and conclude mid-June. Any impression that the communists are writing some of the script for the future coalition government is unlikely to bolster support for the ANO coalition.