Coalition parties shelve their differences to avert threat of early elections
Leaders of the ruling centre-right coalition stepped away from the brink on Monday night, reaching agreement on a cabinet re-shuffle that would allow the pro-reform government to remain in office. The agreement comes in the wake of a crippling corruption scandal that led to numerous rifts within the governing coalition and resulted in a dramatic slump in public support.
The other changes in cabinet were surprisingly tame in view of the far-reaching demands that preceded the agreement. Transport Minister Vít Bárta, the man at the centre of the scandal who resigned after being accused of corruption and setting up Public Affairs in order to further his own business interests, is to be temporarily replaced by one of his non-partisan deputies on the promise that he can return to the post if he is able to clear his name. Education Minister Josef Dobeš, whom the prime minister wanted to dismiss as a figure who had close ties with the ABL security firm for which he’d previously worked, will not, after all, have to give up his post. And Public Affairs leader Radek John, who has been forced to give up the Interior Ministry, is to handle a new anti-corruption portfolio as deputy premier.
The promise of more personnel changes in the coming weeks and months reveals that the rifts in the cabinet have been far from mended and that the prime minister is far from satisfied with the present government line-up. TOP 09 and Public Affairs are still pushing for the dismissal of Civic Democrat Defense Minister Alexander Vondra and Public Affairs has filed a criminal complaint against Agriculture Minister Ivan Fuksa over the financial handling of the state forestry company České Lesy.