Czech Republic's prospective prime minister: Country faces worst crisis in its modern history

Petr Fiala

Representatives of the SPOLU and PirStan election alliances, which successfully challenged Prime Minister Andrej Babiš’ ANO party in October’s general elections, on Monday signed a coalition agreement on forming a new government. The new five-party administration, to be headed by Civic Democrat leader Petr Fiala will face the challenging tasks of leading the country out of the coronavirus pandemic, fighting soaring inflation and a severe energy crisis that has already hit close to a million Czechs.

The five parties in the nascent Czech government won a majority in the elections on the promise of “effecting a radical change in Czech political culture” and ousting the country’s billionaire Prime Minister Andrej Babiš. They now face a much tougher challenge than they ever envisaged - as the man slated to be the country’s next prime minister, Civic Democrat leader Petr Fiala, told Czech Television.

“I do not think we will have a period of grace. We are in the middle of the worst crisis in the country’s modern history – Covid, soaring energy prices, inflation reaching 6 percent. Those are problems that are having a huge impact on people’s lives and problems that must be addressed immediately.”

Although the five parties which will be represented in the next cabinet will have a comfortable 108-seat majority in the Chamber of Deputies, resolving these problems will not be easy –especially when the emerging government wants to keep its ambitious election promises. It aims to curb the soaring deficit in public finances, increase defense spending to 2 percent of the GDP by 2025, and carry out a badly-needed pension reform - all without raising taxes.

Coalition agreement | Photo: Michal Kamaryt,  ČTK

The five parties in the emerging government –the Civic Democrats, Christian Democrats, TOP09, the Pirate Party and Mayors and Independents have not always seen eye-to-eye on key political and economic issues. Now they will have to put their differences aside to deal with a fresh wave of the coronavirus pandemic, spiraling inflation, energy poverty and the impact of EU climate policies on the country’s industry-driven economy.

In foreign policy, the new coalition has pledged to revive the human rights-based policies championed by president Václav Havel, and send out a clear signal that the country is firmly anchored in the EU and NATO. It wants to further develop relations with the United States and maintain the "traditional strategic partnership" with Israel. On the other hand, there are plans to review relations with Russia and China and deepen cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region, for example with Taiwan, South Korea and Japan.

While cooperation within the Visegrad Group has received a positive mention, some members of the emerging coalition government would prefer to maintain looser ties with the V4 so as to avoid being identified with countries that have come under fire for rule of law issues.

And last but not least, the new government will also have to prove itself at the helm of the rotating EU presidency which the country is due to take up in mid-2022.