Czech election winner forming minority government

Andrej Babiš, photo: CTK

Just one week after the country’s general elections, ANO leader Andrej Babiš has given up on the idea of forming a coalition government and is working on creating a minority government of ministers from his own party and experts. The anti-establishment, billionaire leader of ANO, who is shunned by the traditional parties, wants a vote of confidence in his government before Christmas.

Andrej Babiš,  photo: CTK
ANO leader Andrej Babiš, who promised to run the country as he would his own firm, announced at the weekend that the talks on forming a coalition government had failed and he was working to put together a minority government which would function as an effective team of experts rather than a coalition grouping of parties who are forever at each other’s throats.

“We need to get on with the job. The elections are over and people want to see a government pull up its sleeves and get to work. The public is not interested in watching us squabble. They want us to deliver on our election promises and implement our policy programme. So I am working to put together a minority government made up of experts; a government for a better Czech Republic, and one that would fulfil not just our own policy program but something from the other parties’ programs as well.”

Babiš said almost all of his party’s ministers in the outgoing cabinet had agreed to carry on and he was ready to fill the remaining posts with experts, regardless of their party allegiance.

The leader of ANO who won in all the regions and collected three times as many votes as the runner-up centre-right Civic Democrats has just had a week of fruitless talks with the representatives of eight other parties who won seats in the lower house. All potential coalition partners rebuffed the party’s offer with the exception of the nationalist SPD which ANO does not want to team up with.

All these parties have also rejected the idea of supporting a minority government headed by Babiš, with the exception of the Communist Party, which said it would have to consider the matter.

Miloš Zeman,  photo: Filip Jandourek
However this has not deterred the ANO leader from pushing ahead with his plans and publicly offering to push through some of these parties’ priorities in return for tolerance of or support for his government. He is luring the Civic Democrats with the promise of lower taxes and less bureaucracy, the Social Democrats with higher salaries and pensions, the Pirates with an anti-corruption agenda and progress in digitalization and the SPD with a law on referenda. And he even provoked the traditional parties at the weekend by naming several of their experts who would be welcome in his government.

Babiš is widely expected to address the problem of drumming up support for his cabinet as he would any lucrative business deal and there is little doubt that he will negotiate not only with parties but with individual deputies. Whether he will succeed remains to be seen. What is clear even now is that he has strong support from President Miloš Zeman, who is expected to task him with forming a new government on Tuesday. And should all fail, and his cabinet not win its confidence vote in the lower house, it could continue to govern in resignation mode at least for the remainder of this president’s term in office.