Influential politician Karolína Peake dropped a political bombshell late Tuesday when she announced that she was leaving the smallest party in government to found a new faction. The move has cast doubt on whether the centre-right coalition still has a majority in the lower house needed to govern.
The government crisis is not likely to go away any time soon, if anything it intensified twofold on Tuesday when Deputy Prime Minister and MP Karolína Peake announced shortly after five pm she was calling it quits with Public Affairs. Speaking in front of TV cameras, Mrs Peake said she could no longer abide by the smallest government party’s “politics of destruction”.
“In the past I indicated - and I wasn’t alone – that I was unhappy with many steps that were being taken in the party and the manner in which we were presenting ourselves. I came to the conclusion I couldn’t continue.”
That doesn’t mean Peake will retreat on the political front, just the opposite: she announced on Tuesday that she was founding a new political faction, MPs ready to splinter from Public Affairs to stay on in government and back its reforms; Prime Minister Petr Nečas, who expressed surprise over Tuesday’s developments but must have known what was afoot, suggested a clear willingness to continue the government with support from the Peake faction. Not with the remainder of Public Affairs, tainted by the recent sentencing for bribery of its de facto leader Vít Barta, and not with its current chairman Radek John. Mr Nečas has given Peake until the beginning of next week to come forward with a list of names forming what he called a “stable majority” in the Chamber of Deputies. The suggestion is that the bare minima of 101 or 102 votes wouldn’t be enough.
“I consider it unacceptable that my government would continue in cooperation with a deputies’ club in which one of its members was sentenced for corruption, even if the ruling is in appeal. I also will not accept cooperation with the deputies’ club even if that person was no longer a member but could be running things from the sidelines. The government needs a stable majority and if I don’t get a clear answer by Monday that the government has it, I will consider it proper to call early elections in June of this year.”
So far, Mrs Peake has declined to say exactly how many Public Affairs MPs she has in her corner, but a number of them wasted no time stating their allegiance - including Viktor Paggio and Dagmar Navrátilová. Media reports have now broadened the list by the names of Martin Vacek, Lenka Andrýsová, Jana Suchá, and Jiří Rusnok to a total of seven. Together with the Civic Democrats’ 52 and TOP 09’s 41 that puts the current total at 100 – one short of a majority needed to govern and short by maybe three or four by the prime minister’s definition of “stable”
According to the internet news site novinky.cz, six have already declared they will remain in Public Affairs (including Radek John, furious in his reaction over Tuesday’s developments) while an additional six have not yet made their allegiances known. If they don’t break for the new Peake faction, as the prime minister suggested, the country will face early elections in June, which the opposition says has been the only honourable solution since the scandals with Public Affairs began. Lubomír Zaorálek is a Social Democrat MP and is the deputy leader of the lower house:
“I am convinced there is only one viable solution: extraordinary elections. This attempt to create a new political ‘platform’ (which would be a part of the government) is something illegitimate and unimaginable for a regular government. I don’t understand what their political content is... so I think only one solution is possible.”