Prime Minister Andrej Babiš and Social Democrat leader Jan Hamáček have
requested a meeting with President Miloš Zeman to try to resolve the
protracted crisis surrounding the change-of-guard at the Culture
Ministry.The date proposed is next week, despite the fact that the
president will still be holidaying at his country cottage at the time.
The Social Democrat leadership on Monday confirmed Michal Šmarda as the party’s nominee for culture minister and gave party leader Hamáček a stronger mandate in talks with the president and prime minister.
The party has been threatening to quit the government if the president refuses to accept its nominee for culture minister and has urged the prime minister to put pressure on the president to do his constitutional duty and appoint the man of their choice.
The Social Democrats’ party leadership on Monday set a final condition for remaining in the minority government of Andrej Babiš – that his ally President Miloš Zeman appoints their nominee for culture minister. But while urging the prime minister to use his constitutional power to ensure the appointment, the party’s ultimatum did not include a deadline.
If the Social Democrats decide to leave the government at a meeting of the
party leadership on Monday, then no party in Parliament would be willing to
enter into a coalition with Prime Minister Andrej Babiš’ ANO party,
according to a survey conducted by Czech Radio.
The opposition Civic Democrats, TOP 09 and the Pirate Party said they would not, under any circumstances, support a cabinet headed by Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, but his resignation might open the door to a cabinet reconstruction, thereby avoiding early elections.
The Freedom and Direct Democracy Party which has expressed readiness to support the Babiš cabinet on condition that its program priorities would be implemented also said it would not want to be represented in such a cabinet.
The Communist Party alone has refused to reveal its position.
If the Social Democrats quit the government and the cabinet is
reconstructed, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš of ANO would not need to seek a
fresh vote of confidence, the Communist Party’s Vojtěch Filip said on
Tuesday. Mr. Filip said the Social Democrats had around a third of the
seats in cabinet, meaning it would not be a major change.
The Communist Party chief said if other parties disagreed with this they could seek a vote of no-confidence. The Babiš government survived such a show of hands for the second time two weeks ago.
The Social Democrats are threatening to pull out of the coalition over the refusal of ANO leader Babiš to force the president to accept the resignation of the party’s arts minister.
President Miloš Zeman is to hold meetings later this week with key players
in the country’s ongoing political crisis. His spokesman said that the
head of state would welcome Prime Minister Andrej Babiš of ANO to Prague
Castle on Thursday at 5 pm. The following day Mr. Zeman will play host to
Social Democrats chairman Jan Hamáček and the party’s minister of
culture, Antonín Staněk, at his Lány residence at 3 pm.
The president has refused to accept the resignation of Mr. Staněk, a move that the Social Democrats insist on. They say they may quit the coalition government if Mr. Babiš doesn’t force Mr. Zeman to act. However, the PM shows no signs of doing so.
No progress was made during talks between the president and the heads of the two coalition parties last week. The Czech constitution says the president must remove a minister at the request of the prime minister, though it does not set a deadline for this.
President Miloš Zeman has not made any final decision concerning the replacement of Culture Minister Antonín Staněk, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš said after a meeting at Lány Chateau on Thursday. Mr Babiš and Deputy Prime Minister Jan Hamáček met with the head of state with the aim to resolve the dispute that could bring down the government.
On Thursday it will be one year since the appointment of the minority government of ANO and the Social Democrats. Much attention is focused on Andrej Babiš, who police have recommended face criminal prosecution. However, the prime minister's problems don't seem to have dented ANO’s popularity with the party’s base. I asked political scientist Petr Just for his assessment of the cabinet’s first 12 months.
The Social Democrats say all of the party’s MPs will vote against an
opposition motion of no confidence in their coalition government with ANO
next Wednesday, Czech Television reported. However, the coalition’s
junior partner have set conditions for remaining in power with ANO.
The Social Democrats want the 2020 state budget to allow for the fulfillment of their programme targets, guaranteed independence of the judiciary and the resolution of the situation surrounding the minister of culture. The party’s occupant of that post had his resignation rejected by the president, who is due to hold talks with their nominee to replace next week.
The opposition has called the no-confidence vote over a European Commission preliminary audit that found Prime Minister Andrej Babiš in conflict of interest.
The minority coalition government of embattled Prime Minister Andrej Babiš relies on the support of the Communists, giving the largely unreformed, pro-Moscow, anti-NATO party a political say for the first time since 1989. In exchange for its tolerance, the Communists have won some major policy concessions, and party chairman Vojtěch Filip seems increasingly determined to scupper a deal to buy US military helicopters to replace the Czech Army’s ageing fleet.