Czech president tests the limits of his powers
President Zeman’s decision to replace the outgoing centre-right government with a caretaker administration until scheduled or early elections has evoked an outcry on the Czech political scene, with many accusing the head of state of wanting to usurp more powers than he rightly has under the Czech Constitution. So is Mr. Zeman carving out a semi-presidential system for himself, as some foreign media suggest? A question Radio Prague put to political analyst Jiři Pehe.
Would he be able to do that? What would be the powers of such a government?
“Well, we know that President Zeman interprets his constitutional powers in a rather extensive way and he is very skillful in pushing the limits of the Constitution, so he knows that a government he names –disregarding the will of political parties in the lower chamber – in fact has the same powers as a government that has won a vote of confidence. Some of us may argue that it would not be a fully legitimate government, but from the Constitutional point of view it is a government that can make all the decisions that a regular government could make and in that respect I am sure Zeman will be using it to push through some of his priorities.”
Is there anything that political parties can do to prevent this happening?
But once the lower house dissolves itself, there will just be President Zeman, his interim government and a left-dominated Senate. Would that not significantly increase his powers for the time being?
“Well, we can be certain that if the lower chamber of Parliament dissolves itself then that will – for two or three months before we get to early elections – increase Zeman’s powers, but on the other hand he has already by-passed Parliament anyway so the best thing to do under these circumstances is really to find the fastest way possible to early elections and that may be the best way to actually limit some of the damage that the president is causing with his actions. ”