Soc Dems confirm Culture Minister candidate, give chairman mandate to exit gov’t

15-07-2019

The Social Democrat leadership agreed on Monday to support party chairman Jan Hamáček’s mandate to negotiate whether to remain in the minority government of Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO). They also confirmed their choice for culture minister.

Some Social Democrats have been calling to exit the government due to a long-running dispute over replacing Minister of Culture Antonín Staněk, himself a member of the centre-left party.

The crisis stems in part from President Miloš Zeman’s refusal to sack Staněk, who critics accuse of being ineffective, and replace him with the Social Democrats’ preferred candidate, Michal Šmarda.

Monday’s vote of 37-5 with the presidium gives Hamáček room to manoeuvre through the political crisis without explicit backing from top party leadership. A member of the party leadership said the next steps will be decided by the end of July.

Last week Hamáček said that President Zeman had communicated to him in a meeting that he is ready to accept the resignation of Staněk by 31 July. But the president did not clearly state that he would respect the Social Democrats’ decision regarding Šmarda.