Although opinion polls indicate that the vast majority of Czechs would like to see early elections, embattled Prime Minister Petr Nečas has decided to try and weather the latest crisis and will ask the lower house for a vote of confidence in his government on Friday. Amidst speculation that he may end up with a razor sharp majority, political analysts are questioning the wisdom of trying to hold onto power at any cost. Radio Prague spoke to Jiři Pehe about the repercussions this might have but - first and foremost - the legitimacy of this new political set-up.
“I think that from the constitutional point of view the set-up is certainly legitimate, but legitimacy in politics has two meanings–on the one hand there is the constitutional and legal kind of legitimacy and then there is political legitimacy and I think that if we consider the latter then Mr. Necas is in trouble because his government is already highly unpopular and this step will anger the public even more. I really think they are not considering the long-term ramifications of their behavior. I think that keeping a government of this sort alive is politically very risky and what we may see in one or two years is a total destruction of the Czech political Right. I think that we are now headed for the scenario that we recently saw in Slovakia where the political Right managed to self-destruct to the point where the Social Democrats were able to win the elections with an absolute majority.”
Given its shaky foundations how long do you see this government staying in power?
“I would give this government a few months – I think another shock will come in the fall elections –in the regional and Senate elections – because if the Civic Democrats and TOP 09 had any chance to do relatively well in those elections they just buried those chances. I think we will see both those parties soundly defeated in the fall elections and that may trigger yet another crisis in the coalition, a sense of panic and we will see what will happen after that.”
Having said all this – what are the chances of us seeing the government fall on Friday?
“I think that at this point it is very unlikely that the government will fall this coming Friday simply because the coalition seems to have secured 102 votes now. On the other hand, the dynamics of this current development is something we should not underestimate. We may see some new developments before Friday. Certainly Mr. Barta who was- or still is - the informal leader of Public Affairs has brought into Czech politics methods which may work in dissuading some former members of his party from supporting this government. What I mean is that Mr. Barta apparently managed to accumulate a lot of compromising documents and materials on various politicians and it cannot be ruled out that between now and Friday pressure will not be applied to people who now say they will vote for the government. But if that does not happen, I think the government will pass the vote of confidence – certainly the chances of that happening are higher than the chances of the government’s falling. So I think that we will go on for some time with this government, though I think it will be very unstable. “