Government crisis over, but problems with police reform remain
A dispute that has shaken the Czech government came to a head on Wednesday as Interior Minister Milan Chovanec signed a highly controversial plan to reform the police force. For several hours the fate of the Sobotka government hung in the balance, before ANO leader Andrej Babiš announced that his party would not follow up on its threat to leave the ruling coalition.
"The independence of the police is a value worth defending. The police force will never become a division of [Andrej Babiš’ empire] Agrofert."
ANO leader Andrej Babiš who threatened to quit the government if the Social Democrats enforced the reform, called an emergency meeting of the party leadership and emerged to tell reporters that his party would remain in the government.
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka who had departed several hours earlier on an official visit to China, tweeted that he welcomed what he called ANO’s “rational approach” and said he was not against revising the coalition deal. What such a revision would involve remains unclear and many see it as a face-saving move on the part of ANO.
The outcome of the most dramatic stand-off in the history of the Sobotka government is generally seen as a victory for the Social Democrats, who were not afraid to call ANOs bluff, ahead of the autumn Senate and regional elections. However the party has not come out of it with a clean slate either because even those who agree that the reform of the police force is an expert decision fully within the competence of the police president and interior minister are asking why it was so poorly communicated and not properly consulted with the State Attorney’s Office.