President swears in new Czech “reform” government over six weeks after elections

A new Czech centre-right government made up of the Civic Democrats, TOP 09 and Public Affairs has just been sworn in, after a month and a half of coalition talks. However, having pledged to carry out fundamental reforms and fight corruption, the really hard work starts now for Prime Minister Petr Nečas and his cabinet.

Photo: CTKPhoto: CTK The dominant Czech right-wing party of the last two decades, the Civic Democrats, and two new groupings, TOP 09 and Public Affairs, signed a coalition deal on Monday. The agreement was reached over six weeks after general elections that left them with a near two-thirds majority in the lower house, and brings to an end a period in which the Czech Republic did not have an elected government for over a year.

On Tuesday morning, the 15 men (and no women) of the new cabinet were sworn in by the Czech president in a ceremony at Prague Castle. Václav Klaus said he believed it would be a stable government.

“It has the perfect conditions to achieve that. It has the biggest majority in the Chamber of Deputies in the modern history of the Czech Republic. That is definitely a good basis and a good starting point for you to launch much needed reforms, energetically, seriously and bravely.”

Miroslav Kalousek (TOP 09), Václav Klaus (right), photo: CTKMiroslav Kalousek (TOP 09), Václav Klaus (right), photo: CTK The parties in the new Czech government have made a number of weighty pledges, including to cut the budget deficit, reform the pension, tax and health systems, and introduce university fees.

Speaking at Tuesday’s swearing-in ceremony, Prime Minister Petr Nečas also referred to the coalition’s strong majority.

“We are fully aware of the responsibility we bear, as well as what kind of mandate we have. We have 118 seats in the Chamber of Deputies. The citizens of the Czech Republic have given these three political parties a strong mandate in total as a coalition. We are convinced that we can fulfill the points of our coalition agreement, and halt the country’s indebtedness, increase the rule of law and fight corruption.”

Tuesday’s ceremony at Prague Castle appeared be over before President Klaus again approached the microphone.

Radek John (Public Affairs), Miroslav Kalousek (TOP 09), Alexandr Vondra , Petr Nečas (both Civic Democrats), left to right, photo: CTKRadek John (Public Affairs), Miroslav Kalousek (TOP 09), Alexandr Vondra , Petr Nečas (both Civic Democrats), left to right, photo: CTK “Once again, I hope things go well. And I forgot to say during my speech that I hope the government begins to function and work immediately, and that any thoughts of taking a vacation in 2010 don’t come into consideration.”

Holidays could well be the last thing on the minds of the new Czech government. There have been suggestions that the coalition deal is short on detail as to how to actually bring about the promised reforms. And the unity of the cabinet could be tested as soon as October, when the three parties will be to a large extent fighting for the same votes in local elections.