Havel appoints youngest cabinet in Czech history

President Havel appointed a new centre-left cabinet, photo: CTK

President Havel appointed a new centre-left cabinet on Monday, exactly a month after the Social Democrats won the elections. The Social Democrats will occupy 11 of the 17 seats in the new cabinet, the remainder being divided between their coalition partners, the centrist Christian Democrats and the liberal Freedom Union. So what does the new government look like? My colleague Rob Cameron joins me in the studio now, I gather there are a lot of new faces in the cabinet Rob?

President Havel appointed a new centre-left cabinet, photo: CTK
"That's right. Of the seventeen ministers in the new cabinet, just six are veterans of the outgoing Social Democrat government - Vladimir Spidla is the new Prime Minister - he was Labour and Social Affairs Minister in the Zeman government. The highly popular Stanislav Gross remains Interior Minister, while Jaroslav Tvrdik - also seen as competent and popular - keeps his post of Defence Minister. Jiri Rusnok stays in, but moves from Finance to Trade and Industry, and finally two Pavels - Culture Minister Pavel Dostal and the new Justice Minister Pavel Rychetsky - are now the cabinet's oldest members - they're the only two who were born before 1945."

Yes, it's actually the youngest cabinet on record isn't it?

"absolutely - this is a cabinet dominated by 30- and 40-somethings, some of them virtual unknowns. The youngest, Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, is just 31, and just to put that in proportion, in 1989 - the year of the overthrow of Communism - he was still in secondary school. The average age of this cabinet is 43 - much, much younger than the previous one."

Right, and I understand that unlike the previous government the new cabinet is not an all-male affair this time?

"That's correct. The highly popular Petra Buzkova - for so long kept out of the government by the former Prime Minister Milos Zeman, who loathed her quite openly - becomes the new Education Minister. And Marie Souckova, also an influential figure in the Social Democrats, becomes Health Minister - but that's it I'm afraid. Only two of the seventeen ministers are women."

OK, it seems the Social Democrats have snapped up all the plum jobs, so what about the junior partners, the Christian Democrats and the Freedom Union. What do they get out of all this?

"Well the answer is not much. Of the six posts allotted to them, the only really important one is Foreign Minister, and that will be occupied by the leader of the Christian Democrats, Cyril Svoboda. The remaining five are of only marginal importance - Transport, Environment, Regional Development, Agriculture and the brand new Ministry of Information Technology and Communications. So the Social Democrats retain control over all the important stuff - economic policy, the police, the health sector and so on, and their junior partners will of course be easily outvoted in cabinet. But with such a tiny majority in parliament, the junior partner's role will be a crucial one in keeping this new centre-left coalition alive."