Czech interim government steps down

Miloš Zeman, Jiří Rusnok, photo: CTK

The prime minister of the caretaker government, Jiří Rusnok on Tuesday handed his resignation to President Miloš Zeman, a week after his cabinet failed to win approval from the lower house. Mr Rusnok and his ministers will however remain in power until after the next general election.

Miloš Zeman,  Jiří Rusnok,  photo: CTK
Prime Minister Jiří Rusnok handed in his resignation to President Miloš Zeman at Prague Castle on Tuesday noon. The president then asked Mr Rusnok and his ministers to continue in their positions until a new administration emerges from the next general elections.

A snap election might come as soon as October, provided deputies next week deliver on their promise to vote in favour of dissolving the lower house. In that case, the Czech Constitution requires the president to formally dissolve the Chamber of Deputies and call an early general election within the next 60 days.

In the meantime, Prime Minister Rusnok told reporters that his cabinet would focus on the day-to-day governing of the country, and would not make any far-reaching decisions.

“Our priorities are clear: we are an outgoing government, and our priority is to keep public institutions running and to make sure that public administration works as it should. That’s what we’ll do. Whenever we will feel some decisions are required to meet these goals, we will of course make them.”

Czech Parliament,  photo: Filip Jandourek
Under this scenario, the Czech Republic would go through a stage unparalleled in its modern history – with the lower house dissolved, the Senate would become the sole legislative body capable of passing new legislation.

Prime Minister Jiří Rusnok met with the speaker of Parliament’s upper chamber, Milan Štěch, on Monday to discuss their options; Mr Rusnok then said bills could be passed using the so-called legal provisions of the Senate.

“We do not shun this instrument and if it is necessary, we will use it in coordination with the Senate. We have agreed to set up a hotline so that whenever the need arises, our legislative teams will meet to discuss such an eventuality.”

Under the Constitution, the Senate’s legal provisions would be in force for a period of three months unless they are also approved by the lower house.

Photo: Filip Jandourek
But there is another issue that might prove an obstacle to an early general election. In recent weeks, the lower house passed a series of bills. Some of them deal with curbing subsidies for solar power, others are related to a new civic code which could not enter into force next year as planned should these bills get scrapped. The draft legislation has been shipped to the Senate but if Senators decide to make any amendments, they will return for a final vote to the lower house.

However, if the lower house were dissolved, the legislation would get swept under the table. To prevent that, political parties are considering striking a deal with the president to postpone the dissolution of the lower house so that there is enough time for MPs to clear the legislation.