Czech PM Andrej Babiš playing long game over confidence votes: analyst

Andrej Babiš, photo: CTK

The Czech Republic’s newly appointed prime minister, Andrej Babiš, has put together a minority cabinet made up of ANO members as well as a number of unaffiliated experts. But how likely is his minority government to win a confidence vote in the Chamber of Deputies?

Andrej Babiš, photo: CTK
This is a question I put to political commentator Jiří Pehe.

“I think that the likelihood of Mr Babiš passing a confidence vote is quite small. I think that he doesn’t even want to pass a confidence vote at this point, because the way he was putting together his government suggests that he is probably thinking about a second attempt in which he could get it.

“The reason may be that the first unsuccessful attempt to form a government may be used as a tool to put pressure on other political parties. It may also be something that he has coordinated with the president.

“President Zeman will run for re-election in mid-January and certainly if the country doesn’t have a stable government at that point, a government that didn’t pass a vote of confidence, that would play into Mr Zeman’s hands because the president could argue that a new and experienced head of state would not be a good choice.”

There have been some reports that the Social Democrats want to avoid early elections at any cost and would be willing to support or tolerate Babiš's government.

“Yes, I think that this is what Mr Babiš actually counts on. This is why I don’t think he really is thinking seriously about this first government.

“He knows that with the second attempt he will have better chances to put pressure on other political parties and the Social Democrats are a good example of that, because simply this is a party in disarray that cannot afford early elections just like several other parties.

“And Mr Babiš can tell them: look, if you don’t work with me this time, we are getting closer to early elections and I am the only top politician in this country that has money to be actually able to run a good campaign before early elections.

Miloš Zeman, photo: CTK
To what extent would you say are Babiš’s and Zeman’s futures interlinked? If Babiš doesn’t succeed, will it reflect badly on the president?

“Well I think that Mr Zeman actually wouldn’t mind if this first government doesn’t go through. In my opinion the scenario had been agreed on with Mr Babiš.

“Mr Zeman said already before the elections that even if Mr Babiš doesn’t succeed with his first attempt to form a government, he would appoint him again, which is highly unusual.

“So I think this is what both of them count on. I think that the public, with all the PR machinery Mr Babiš has at his disposal, would be led to believe that this is the failure of the uncooperative other parties.

“I think Mr Zeman would strengthen this message but I don’t think it would be seen as his defeat.”