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April 25, 2018
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Czech President pushing Czech PM into Government with right-wing extremists

15.4.2018 13:26
Andrej Babiš (PHOTO: Czech Television)
Andrej Babiš (PHOTO: Czech Television)

Czech President Miloš Zeman has recommended that outgoing Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO) continue to negotiate forming a new Government with the Communists and the "Freedom and Direct Democracy" (SPD) movement. Babiš informed the press of the President's recommendations after meeting him at the presidential residence on 11 April.

The outgoing PM said Zeman had been very surprised that ANO's negotiations with the Czech Social Democratic Party (ČSSD) had failed. Agreement on a program between them already exists and the questions of contention were just about personnel.

According to Babiš, ANO planned to convene the highest decision-making bodies of the movement, i.e., its board and committee. On 11 April he said he assumed the meeting would be on Thursday, 12 April.

"We will confer on how to proceed," the outgoing PM said. An alliance between ANO, the Communists (KSČM) and the SPD would have 115 votes in the 200-seat Chamber of Deputies.

Some representatives of ANO take exception to collaborating with the SPD. Czech Transportation Minister Dan Ťok (for ANO) said last Monday that he would not remain in a Government that had arisen as a consequence of support from the SPD movement.

Outgoing Czech Justice Minister Robert Pelikán has called the SPD a Fascist party. The opposition has warned more than once that a coalition of that sort is already de facto functioning and that ANO is dealing with many votes in the Chamber of Deputies on the basis of support from the Communists and SPD.

Babiš, however, has hesitated to base support for a cabinet on the SPD because he has been attempting to create a Government with a pro-EU profile. Zeman was scheduled to negotiate with the heads of the KSČM and the SPD last week.

The chair of the Communists, Vojtěch Filip, was scheduled to visit the presidential residence last Wednesday and Okamura (chair of the SPD) on Thursday. During the coming week the President will meet with the chair of the Civic Democratic Party (ODS), Petr Fiala, the chair of the Christian Democrats, Pavel Bělobrádek, and the chair of the Pirates, Ivan Bartoš, according to the outgoing PM.

The Czech Republic had long been heading toward a Government of the ANO movement with the ČSSD that was to have been supported by the Communists and would have had 108 votes in the lower house. The interviews between ANO and the Socialists collapsed in early April because ANO did not back away from nominating its chair as Prime Minister.

ANO also refused to allow the ČSSD to helm the Interior Ministry, which the Socialists said would have been a guarantee of an independent investigation of the "Stork's Nest" case in which Babiš is being prosecuted for alleged EU subsidy fraud. ANO is insisting its chair become Prime Minister.

"The ANO movement has just one candidate for the position of Prime Minister, and that is Andrej Babiš," the head of the movement's faction in the lower house, Czech MP Jaroslav Faltýnek, said on 11 April. The head of the Christian Democrats (KDU-ČSL), Bělobrádek, said last Tuesday that he is proposing to the leaders of the other parties that they resolve the crisis of government by creating a minority government among the ČSSD, KDU-ČSL, ODS, the Pirates, STAN and TOP 09.

That coalition would have 85 votes, or more seats than ANO has, he told the press on 11 April. Representatives of six out of the nine parties seated in Parliament were scheduled to meet last Wednesday, probably after the Chamber of Deputies session, at the invitation of the STAN movement.

Opposition politicians criticize Zeman's recommendation of Babiš

The chairs of the opposition parties are criticizing the approach being taken by the Czech President. They are all calling the SPD movement extremist.

"To have the extremists from the SPD in Government would damage the reputation of the Czech Republic in Europe. If Andrej Babiš negotiates with him, that will confirm that he is not concerned about creating jobs, but solely about becoming Prime Minister," ČSSD chair Jan Hamáček tweeted.

"It is up to Andrej Babiš whether he wants to take responsibility for a Government with the extremists and the Communists," tweeted ODS chair Petr Fiala. The chair of TOP 09, Jiří Pospíšil, said Zeman's moves had not surprised him because the defense Babiš is mounting against his prosecution is still ongoing.

"M. Zeman's attempt to bring the extremist SPD movement into Government is no surprise, he has them to thank for his election," said the TOP 09 chair. Zeman entrusted Babiš with forming a cabinet after last October's elections in which ANO won the most votes.

Babiš then created a monolithic minority government which did not receive a vote of confidence from Parliament. The President then entrusted Babiš with negotiating the creation of a new cabinet and gave him until the summer.

The President did not, however, reappoint Babiš Prime Minister. Zeman has long rejected the option of early elections, but for many parliamentary parties that would be the more acceptable alternative than if the head of state decided to appoint a technocratic government as happened in 2013.

ČTK, ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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