Czech government’s future remains uncertain after party split

Karolína Peake, photo: CTK

The fate of the centre-right Czech government hangs in the balance after the junior coalition party Public Affairs split up, robbing the government of its comfortable majority in the lower house. The newly emerging pro-government faction around defector Karolína Peake is now trying to rally enough deputies to secure a viable majority in the lower house, but the key players on the Czech political scene are already preparing for early elections.

Karolína Peake,  photo: CTK
Mid-way though its four-year term, the centre right cabinet faces the worst crisis in its existence. The junior Public Affairs, from the start and unreadable and unpredictable coalition partner, has broken up. The faction loyal to its founder and informal leader Vít Bárta, recently sentenced for corruption, is tarred by scandal and is no longer a partner the Civic Democrats and TOP 09 want to rule with. The faction around defector, Deputy Prime Minister Karolina Peake may not be able to muster enough support to allow the government to continue, aside from having no name, no political base and being of questionable legitimacy.

Prime Minister Petr Nečas, whose party earlier this week moved to end the coalition agreement with Public Affairs, on Thursday stated the conditions under which he was prepared to continue in office with the newly-emerging faction around Karolina Peake.

“The Civic Democrat leadership has concluded that the only viable coalition agreement which would enable the pro-reform government to continue in office is an institutionalized agreement based on the support of three legitimate deputies’ groups in Parliament. We are not prepared to rely on a loose group of deputies rounded up in haste to produce the required number. That is not a “safe majority” and in such a case we would be ready to face early elections at the end of June.”

Petr Nečas,  photo: CTK
Deputy Prime Minister Karolina Peake is refusing to say how many deputies have rallied behind her, though unofficial sources now speak of eight –two short of the number needed to set up a deputies’ group in the lower house and make up the “safe majority” which the prime minister has requested. Although Ms Peak recently admitted she may have miscalculated the strength of her support group, she remains cautiously optimistic and has until Monday to produce her “team”.

“I would very much like to succeed in putting together a new deputies’ group. What I offer is blood, sweat and tears, but also the chance to do honourable politics and save face.”

Given the number of undecided MPs she may just pull it off, but the key players on the scene have already started preparing for snap polls in a big way. If things should swing in favour of early elections then the country would be in for a frenzied election campaign.

Meanwhile a massive trade union protest against the government and its reform program scheduled for Saturday remains in place with 45,000 protesters expected to march through Prague. Trade union leader Jaroslav Zavadil says the split of Public Affairs to produce a “clean” faction was a premeditated move to extend the government’s lease on life.

Jaroslav Zavadil,  photo: CTK
“This whole affair with Public Affairs is a scam and I am convinced we will see evidence of it later. This is not about “blood, sweat and tears” –this is about money.”

A flash opinion poll conducted this week indicates certain victory in general elections for the opposition parties –with the Social Democrats getting 37 percent of the votes and the Communists 20 percent. Centre-right: the Civic Democrats would get 17.5 percent, TOP 09 11.5 percent and the Christian Democrats 5.5 percent.