Green Party divided over minister's forced resignation

Dana Kuchtova, photo: CTK

The forced resignation of Education Minister Dana Kuchtova - over a botched application for EU funds - has caused a storm of controversy inside the Green Party. Five regional leaderships have criticized party leader Martin Bursik for failing to stand up for one of his ministers and are demanding that Dana Kuchtova remain in office. Some party members say the Greens should quit the cabinet in protest of her forced resignation or at least revise the conditions of the coalition agreement between the three governing parties.

Dana Kuchtova,  photo: CTK
The forced resignation of Education Minister Dana Kuchtova is rocking the Green Party. Although the minister herself said that she did not wish to create discord within the governing coalition her unwilling departure from the centre- right cabinet has put into motion a far more dangerous force, further deepening divisions within the Green Party itself. Political commentator Petr Just explains what lies behind the rebellion of some party members.

"Ever since the Greens entered the government it was evident that there were two -or maybe more than two - rival groups within the party. The party is split on many issues: whether the Greens should have joined this centre right government or not, there is internal discord over the US radar base, over party policy - whether the Greens should be more to the right or more to the left, over the organization of the party and many other things. So the controversy over minister Kuchtova's resignation is not so surprising - it is one of many differences and it shows that the party itself is actually going through a period of what we call "childhood illnesses" that afflict every party on the rise to power."

Do you see this as a serious crisis that could rock the government coalition? Because the coalition has a very fragile majority in the lower house as it is...

"Of course every crisis of the Green Party is a threat to the stability of the coalition government. Every single vote from the Green Party is necessary. So any crisis it goes through, including this one, will endanger the government and I am sure that Prime Minister Topolanek is aware of that and will negotiate very carefully in order to keep the Greens in this coalition government."

Martin Bursik,  photo: CTK
The coalition government's fragile majority in parliament makes it difficult for the prime minister to sack ministers who do not belong to his own party. When Green Party leader Martin Bursik practically talked the education minister into resigning the prime minister breathed a sigh of relief. Peace within the coalition would be maintained. But the battle which threatened to come to a head within the governing coalition has now flared up within the Green Party itself. And it is the party leader who is under fire. Regional party head Petr Pavek has accused him of starting a purge of potential rivals. And some party members want a fresh vote on whether he still has majority support as party leader. Sunday's meeting of the Green Party leadership is expected to be very stormy indeed. Outwardly at least, Martin Bursik appears unconcerned.

"We all tend to be a bit wild in the Green Party - but there are limits which cannot be crossed" the minister said in response to the attacks against his person. Those "limits" presumably mean stopping short of quitting the coalition government. Deputy Prime Minister Bursik clearly hopes to resolve this crisis successfully behind closed doors over the weekend. Much will depend on his ability to do so - it might not only be his own career which is at stake but the future of the whole coalition government.