Hamáček: Zeman acting like coach when he should be referee

Michal Šmarda, photo: ČTK / Michal Kamaryt

A meeting on Monday between the heads of ANO and the Social Democrats failed to find an impasse in the long-running government crisis. Speaking afterwards, the latter’s leader accused the president of violating the constitution and said the very functioning of the state was on the line.

Michal Šmarda,  photo: ČTK / Michal Kamaryt
The crisis surrounding the Czech government continues to move at a glacial pace.

Three long months after the last minister of culture first tendered his resignation, his replacement has still not been found, with President Zeman rejecting the Social Democrats’ nominee Michal Šmarda.

Despite himself having proposed him for the post, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš has now joined the head of state in ruling out Mr. Šmarda, who he says would “too critical” in cabinet.

For their part, the Social Democrats – who control the Ministry of Culture under the coalition agreement – insist Mr. Šmarda is their only choice.

On Monday morning the party’s leader Jan Hamáček held talks with his ANO opposite number Mr. Babiš.

Speaking to the media afterwards, Mr. Hamáček said zero progress had been made.

However, he did refer to another date that suggests the matter could drag on for at least another week.

Jan Hamáček,  photo: David Sedlecký,  Wikimedia Commons,  CC BY-SA 4.0
“We are still in the government. Nevertheless, we insist on the coalition agreement being adhered to. By the way, the prime minister has spoken about some solution that he would put forward on, I believe, August 26. The question is what that solution will be, and whether it will be in line with the coalition agreement.”

Mr. Hamáček also hit out at President Zeman, who is legally obliged to appoint without delay ministers proposed by the PM.

“The president is assuming the role of somebody who decides who will become a minister. Under the constitution, I see the president’s role as being more like the referee of a football game; he shouldn’t be a trainer who decides who plays in defence or attack. That is the bone of contention. It’s not a dispute about Michal Šmarda. It’s about how the Czech Republic functions, about how the constitution functions. We’re convinced we are in the right.”

The Social Democrats chief refused to confirm whether he would deliver any time soon on a threat to pull the plug on the current coalition if progress is not made – but did say his expectations were not high.

“I wouldn’t make any predictions. The week is still ahead of us and certainly the situation – which is very dynamic – will develop in some way… If you recall my mood after the first talks at Lány, when I said I wasn’t too optimistic, believe me when I say that despite having a holiday I’m still not optimistic.”

The saga is set to continue on Tuesday, when Prime Minister Babiš meets the president as his residence at Lány near Prague.