Czech coalition government faces vote of no confidence

Radek John, Petr Nečas, Miroslav Kalousek (left to right), photo: CTK

The centre-right Czech government is going through its first major crisis since it took office in July. The coalition cabinet is facing a vote of no confidence over a corruption scandal at the Environment Ministry. Ahead of the vote, one of the coalition parties, Public Affairs, refused to pledge support for the cabinet, and walked out of Monday’s talks with its partners in the power-sharing deal. In a last-minute attempt to ensure backing for the government in the lower house, President Václav Klaus weighed in and met with coalition leaders.

Pavel Drobil, Petr Nečas, photo: CTK
Tension between the senior ruling Civic Democrats and the small coalition party, Public Affairs, has been mounting ever since Prime Minister, and party leader, Petr Nečas backed Environment Minister Pavel Drobil, who was exposed last week as trying to cover up corrupt practices at his ministry.

While both the prime minister and the president said the only mistake Mr Drobil made was his poor choice of subordinates, one of whom blew the whistle on attempts to channel some 500 billion crowns from the ministry’s funds, and use the money to allegedly finance Mr Drobil’s career within the Civic Democrat party.

The junior coalition party, Public Affairs, have taken a very different stand. Party leader, Interior Minister Radek John said it was obvious broader changes needed to be made to curb corruption, one of them being the demise of the police president.

However, Prime Minister Nečas ignored the call of the Public Affairs party, which reacted by walking out of Monday’s meeting of the coalition that was supposed to muster support for the government in the upcoming vote of no-confidence.

Radek John, photo: CTK
For Public Affairs, the question has become clear-cut– either PM Nečas backs their demand to dismiss the police president, or they will topple the government. It would be a big surprise if the centre-right Czech government fell in the vote of no confidence scheduled for Tuesday afternoon. But the stakes are high, and the Public Affairs party, which ran with strong anti-corruption rhetoric, seems determined to save face given their diminishing support with the public.