The Czech Republic has been without a fully-fledged government since the October election. President Miloš Zeman is expected next week to name Andrej Babiš, now head of the ‘government in resignation’, as prime minister. But the form that his government might take – and its chances of survival – are far from certain.
Zeman first named Slovak-born billionaire turned Czech politician Andrej Babiš as prime minister last December. His centrist party ANO had handily won the election that autumn, but his minority government lost a vote of confidence in January.
Babiš is now hoping that the second time’s a charm. Following his meeting with President Zeman on Thursday at the president’s retreat in Lány, he told journalists the expected timeline.
“The president informed me that he will name me prime minister on June 6th, next Wednesday, at 2pm. And I was given a deadline to present a new government.”
The caretaker prime minister reportedly has been given until June 20th to present the Czech president with his list of prospective ministers. If Zeman approves them, Babiš will call another confidence vote some three weeks later.
“We can then ask for the confidence of the lower house, a vote which I expect will come after the 10th of July, sometime during that week.”
After months of wrangling, ANO in early May struck an agreement with the centre-left Social Democrats to form a coalition. That party’s rank-and-file members have yet to approve the deal, which will be put to an internal referendum on June 15th. Zeman has given Babiš until June 20th to present his Cabinet, but the president is not obliged to accept it.
Babiš has struggled to gain coalition partners while fighting charges that a decade ago he illegally gained EU subsidies meant for small Czech businesses. As a condition for joining a Babiš-led government, the Social Democrats secured an agreement that the billionaire leader would step down if found guilty in that EU fraud case.
Even if all goes as Babiš hopes, an ANO-Social Democrat coalition would still be a minority government, with only 93 out of 200 seats in the lower house. So Babiš would need support from somewhere, likely from the unreformed Communist Party. If the ANO-Social Democrat deal does falls through, Babiš has said an early election could be held next spring. That could also see the current political instability lasting over a year and a half.
In the meantime, the only real option left to Babiš would be to form a minority government tolerated by the Communists on the far left and the anti-EU Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) party on the far right. Other sizable parliamentary parties, such as the Pirate Party, have ruled out any cooperation with him.