Erik Best: Zeman real winner in Wednesday’s vote

Miloš Zeman, photo: ČTK

Wednesday’s vote of confidence in the caretaker government made clear several new realities on the Czech political scene. The country has moved closer to early elections with enough MPs saying they will now support the move. But despite “his” government’s failure to win approval, the vote seems to have reinforced President Miloš Zeman’s dominant position. I discussed the outcome of the vote with commentator Erik Best.

Miloš Zeman,  photo: ČTK
“The vote told us that the former coalition of 101 MPs is no longer in existence, and that is a big victory for Mr Zeman because he was able to break up the right which was one of his goals. It also led to the resignation today of the chairwoman of the LIDEM party, Karolína Peake, who has stepped down.

“And it was also the final blow to the Social Democrats because the chairman of the party had viciously attacked the idea of a presidential government, and in yesterday’s vote, the same chairman, Bohuslav Sobotka, supported the government, going back on his word. That basically threw him in with Mr Zeman and he is now in a weak position.

“So we have three or four parties that have been weakened by that one vote, and the one person who has been strengthened most evidently is the president, Miloš Zeman.”

So you think President Zeman is after all the real winner of yesterday’s vote?

Miloš Zeman,  photo: ČTK
“Absolutely. Technically you could say he lost because the vote did not pass, but I think he was not even expecting to win this vote. I think he knew for several weeks that enough votes would not be there, and I’m not sure that was even his intention from the beginning. His victory needs to be judged in a completely different way from whether the Rusnok government won the confirmation or not.”

In the wake of the vote, there now seem to be enough MPs who say they will support a motion to dissolve the lower house and call early general election. Do you think this will really happen?

“I hate to make a prediction on that because you’re making a prediction on politicians who are inherently not very reliable. But I think they might be backing themselves into a trap, into a corner, where even though it’s not in their best interests, they still have to go ahead with the dissolution of Parliament. So it seems they are heading in that direction although I don’t think it is in their best interest for the most part. So in the end, they might decide not to do it.”