Government wins confidence but its position weakens

Petr Nečas, photo: CTK

The Czech government has survived a vote of confidence in the lower house of Parliament. On Friday, 105 out of 198 deputies voted in its support. The vote revealed that besides the Civic Democrat and TOP 09 parties, the cabinet can also rely on those deputies who quit the Public Affairs party, and at least three MPs who remained members of the former junior coalition partner, which now sees itself as “constructive opposition”. But despite the safe majority in the lower house, the centre-right cabinet might now find it harder to push through some of its reforms bills, according to analyst Jiří Pehe.

Petr Nečas,  photo: CTK
“I think the problem is that this government has a majority but it’s not a real coalition at this point. It is a coalition of two parties which between them do not have a majority in the house, and then a rather loose body of deputies who supported. But these MPs don’t necessarily support all of the government’s steps and some of the important reforms. We might therefore have a serious problem if one of the major reforms is rejected for instance by some of the deputies, then the government will be in trouble.”

What do you think the impact of the mounting public pressure on the government will be? We recently saw one of the largest anti-government rallies since the fall of communism, and the labour unions are talking about going on strike by the end of June. Will this have any impact on the government in your view?

Anti-government demonstration,  Prague,  April 21,  2012
“I think that the current government has been fairly resistant to public pressure so I think it would take a much bigger expression of outrage, much bigger rallies for the government to step down or fall. It may put pressure on some of the MPs who support the government in the lower house but precisely because they are worried that the government might end which would mean the end of political life for a lot of them, they will in the end not be easily persuaded that the government should fall.

“On the other hand, of course, such public protests have their own dynamics and it’s quite possible that for example if labour unions succeed in paralyzing transportation and industry and their protest comes close to a general strike, this may have serious implications and the government might start unravelling.”

Where does all this leave the opposition in Parliament, the Social Democrats and the Communists? Do you think they have enough strength to try and make the government step down in one way or another?

Social Democrats leader Bohuslav Sobotka,  photo: CTK
“I think that at this point, the opposition must put the government under pressure especially in the Senate where the Social Democrats have a majority. Under this new situation, the government will have to override the Senate vetoes with 101 votes in the lower house where, as we saw, there are now only 105 deputies supporting the government.

“They can of course also piggy back on the public pressure but we should not expect the opposition in the near future. All of this might have a cumulative effect and I personally think that the political shock will come in the fall during the regional and senate elections when the government parties will lose lot of votes and may think twice whether they should continue in power.”