Health and human rights ministers sacked in cabinet shake-up

Bohuslav Sobotka, foto: ČTK

The country’s president has agreed with planned changes in the Sobotka government: on Sunday the prime minister presented him with the names of two ministers who will depart the cabinet by the end of November and the names of their successors. Due to depart are the minister for human rights, Jiří Dienstbier and Health Minister Svatopluk Němeček.

Bohuslav Sobotka, photo: CTK
The changes in the cabinet are coming less than a year before the next national election and the departure of two ministers, both Social Democrats, may only be the beginning. The prime minister described the rationale behind their dismissal.

“The changes are not rushed but are in part a reaction to the recent Social Democratic Party results in regional election results, as well as an attempt to bring our ministers fully up to speed ahead of the parliamentary elections.”

Both Health Minister Něměček and human rights minister Dienstbier are to step down by the end of November, when their successors, Miloslav Ludvík and Jan Chvojka should be sworn in. President Miloš Zeman, meeting with the prime minister on Sunday, said he wanted to meet with both new ministers as well as the outgoing minister of health. Left out, is Jiří Dienstbier, who ran against Mr Zeman in the first round of the presidential election in 2012/13, and who has been criticised also by the right-wing opposition for a perceived lack of results. Civic Democrat Miroslava Němcová:

Jan Chvojka, Jiří Dienstbier, photo: CTK
“[Some] proposals which came forward made sense compared to Minister Dienstbier’s, so I would say he should have left the cabinet even sooner.”

Prime Minister Sobotka has met with several members of the cabinet in recent days to review their results in office. In recent days, he stepped up pressure on Transport Minister Dan Ťok, a member of ANO headed by Finance Minister Andrej Babiš. Andrej Babiš made it clear even before the two met on Monday that he was against the minister being recalled, saying Ťok had performed well in his job. The finance minister instead criticised the prime minister. Here’s what he said on Czech TV on Sunday:

“The Social Democrats are in crisis after losing the regional elections… and through attacks on our minister are trying to direct attention away. Mr Ťok is successful and we reject this. The prime minister knows he cannot recall our minister from his post.”

Dan Ťok, photo: CTK
Czech TV corrected Mr Babiš, arguing the prime minister could do so but not without seeking a consensus with the other parties per the government’s coalition agreement. Were Mr Sobotka to actually go ahead with such a move would be to invite greater discord within the coalition – less than a year before the election. The prime minister is due to meet with remaining members of the cabinet, including the finance minister by the fir4st week or so in December.