Attention centres on Zeman-Poche meeting as coalition saga drags on

Miroslav Poche, photo: ČTK/Vondrouš Roman

The saga over the formation of a new government continues, with all eyes now on a planned meeting later this week between President Zeman and Miroslav Poche, the Social Democrats’ candidate for foreign affairs in a proposed minority coalition with ANO. Mr. Zeman is against the nomination and will ask Mr. Poche to step aside. However, he and his party leader show no sign of budging. I discussed the situation with political analyst Jiří Pehe.

Miroslav Poche, photo: ČTK/Vondrouš Roman
Politicians from various parties are saying that a great deal now depends on a meeting later this week between the president and Miroslav Poche. Why does so much depend on that meeting, and how do you think it will play out?

“I personally don’t think that the meeting itself is very important. Simply because the president doesn’t want Mr. Poche to become the minister of foreign affairs for the reasons that he states – that is supposedly Mr. Poche’s friendly attitudes towards migrants.

“I think that the real reasons are different.

“That’s why Mr. Poche’s attempts to explain his position on migration to Mr. Zeman will not contribute anything to solving this deadlock.”

So what do you think will happen in this case?

“I think it’s possible the president may use this meeting to in the end accept Mr. Poche.

“But it’s more likely that he will not; he will insist on his objections against Mr. Poche.

“But at the same time, it is very likely that the deadlock will continue and the Social Democrats and Mr. Babiš, the designated prime minister, will have to come up with a different solution.”

Obviously the Social Democrats only got 7 percent in the last elections and are a lot weaker than they were previously. If they do enter a coalition with ANO, do you think it will help or harm them in the medium term?

“I think the effects of this decision will be pretty much neutral.

“On the one, there may be some voters who return to the Social Democratic Party for what they may see as a constructive role in creating a new government.

Miloš Zeman, photo: Khalil Baalbaki / Czech Radio
“But there may also be a lot of voters who may not be happy about the fact that the Social Democratic Party, by participating in this government, legitimises a criminally prosecuted politician in the position of prime minister.

“So I don’t think this will affect the party’s ratings among the public in the short term.

“But what it may do is to deepen conflicts within the Social Democratic Party, because quite clearly there are important politicians in the party who are very much opposed to participating in this government.

“That in the long run may actually damage the Social Democratic Party more than the immediate effect of the party entering the government.”