Human rights minister Michael Kocáb steps down at Greens’ request

Michael Kocáb y Jan Fischer, foto: ČTK

The Minister for Human Rights and Minorities Michael Kocáb has resigned - meeting a request by the Green Party which no longer intends to support the country’s caretaker government. The Greens decided to withdraw from the cabinet entirely after its environment minister stepped down over what they see as ineffective modernisation plans by the ČEZ power utility for a controversial coal-powered plant.

Michael Kocáb,  photo: CTK
Jan Fischer’s caretaker government has lost the support of the Green Party – a move now complete with the minister for human rights and minorities’ resignation on Monday. Michael Kocáb, the party’s nominee, agreed to resign at the Greens request, after the party opted to pull all support for Jan Fischer’s cabinet over the Prunéřov plant issue. On Sunday he made clear he respected the request, although not without regrets over unfinished business. He suggested on Czech TV that there were important issues that needed further progress:

“There are several things, from programmes to help the Roma, to help them fight against social exclusion, to gender issues, pushing for equal opportunities and so on.”

With Mr Kocáb gone, Prime Minister Jan Fischer could take up the human rights post for the few months his cabinet has left, making clear he would stay the course. But the course for the cabinet here on in may not be as easy: for one, the cabinet has lost support not only from the Greens but also potentially from the right-of-centre Civic Democratic Party. While it has not pulled any ministers, its members are far from happy with recent developments, calling for the freed ministerial posts to be either filled by their own nominees or by new names put forward by the Green Party. The crux of the problem, in their view, is the need to balance nominees within the interim cabinet, in which the leftist Social Democrats now theoretically have a “majority”. And, the Civic Democrats have made clear unless a reasonable solution is found they will not support further moves by the cabinet.

Jan Fischer,  photo: CTK
At the same time, some - like President Václav Klaus - have downplayed the situation, seeing it as less than dramatic. Asked about developments at the weekend, Mr Klaus said it would be irresponsible to change the government just two months before Czechs go to the polls. Even the Civic Democrats realise that would probably make little sense, one reason they have formed a team to negotiate with the prime minister to try and resolve the issue.

Meanwhile, there is also still a sliver of a chance that the Greens may change their mind and support the cabinet after all: but Prime Minister Jan Fischer would have to do an about-face and push for changes to the modernisation plans for the Prunéřov power plant and the cabinet would also have to adopt changes to the mining act to satisfy members of the Green Party. That is highly unlikely, and in those regards no one – including members of the Green Party leadership – is likely to hold their breath.