Interim cabinet enjoying high public support midway through its term

Jan Fischer, photo: CTK

In last month’s opinion poll the interim government of Jan Fischer received unusually positive feedback from the public compared to previous cabinets. Carried out by the STEM polling agency just four months after the cabinet was appointed, the poll suggests that 44 percent of Czechs trust the government, with the prime minister himself enjoying as much as 83 percent of public support. Radio Prague spoke to the head of STEM, Jan Hartl, and asked him first what was behind those figures.

“In a way we can speak about a carte blanche that our government received, in a situation where they didn’t have sufficient time to prove that they are competent. I think it’s derived from the general political situation that our last government, the governments before and the leaders of the big parties were not able to talk to each other, to address crucial topics and issues and our political scene was more or less defined by political hostilities. The present government seems to be able to negotiate across political parties and their support is more or less an expression of hope that they may target important issues, such as coping with the global financial and economic crisis.”

Jan Fischer,  photo: CTK
Speaking of which, do you think that public opinion may change significantly now that the government faces another six or more months in office?

“It’s highly probable and it would be a result of the fact that they would have to implement unpopular economising measures and they would have to prove their skills in solving political conflicts, such as the case around the Lisbon treaty. And it’s very likely that they would lose some of their popularity points but still they have a very good position to start with. The 80 percent that our prime minister has now, at the moment – it’s an incredibly high figure.”

That is the prime minister and who are the other most popular figures and why?

“It’s interesting that the most popular person in our government is Finance Minister Eduard Janota. In spite of the fact that his proposals and steps so far are unpopular in terms of introducing more fiscal discipline and limiting expenses he’s getting relatively large support. This is a reflection of the fact that our population when we speak about politicians values professional competence most and minister Janota is an example of a competent official and does not show too much interest in being cherished by the public and being treated nicely and positively. He is just sticking to his economic measures and the public understands that in a crisis situation this is necessary.”

The last caretaker cabinet of Josef Tošovský eleven years ago enjoyed similar public support. Why do Czechs seem to like caretaker cabinets?

“The figures are very similar to what we had in a similar situation when we had a non-political government. This is a result of the fact that political parties are not valued very highly. The percentage of people who think that the parties are doing their jobs in the right way is only around twenty percent and it seems that the public would appreciate more consensus, more cooperation and more focused policies on important issues. It seems that our political scene is driven mainly by ideologies and personal hostilities. To the people it seems that this is not a proper way to address the most important issues and problems of our society.”