Interim cabinet’s survival chances appear to grow

Jiří Rusnok, photo: Filip Jandourek

When the freshly installed caretaker government was first mooted, it was widely assumed that it would have virtually zero chance of winning a confidence vote in the lower house. However, with the parties divided and individual MPs wavering, the prospect that the new ministers could rule for the best part of a year appears to be becoming more realistic.

Jiří Rusnok,  photo: Filip Jandourek
Hours before President Miloš Zeman made his adviser Jiří Rusnok prime minister, the parties in the outgoing coalition produced a document signed by over half the MPs in parliament in support of their remaining in government, with a new leader.

When the president ignored that move, the biggest of the three parties, the Civic Democrats and TOP 09, said they would bide their time with a view to eventually getting a chance to return to power, if presidential appointees proved unsuccessful.

The main opposition Social Democrats, meanwhile, had said they would accept an interim government only as a stopgap measure before early elections and would not back a government not elected by the people.

From the moment of its appointment on Wednesday, Jiří Rusnok’s left-of-centre cabinet has 30 days to win a vote of confidence, which would require a simple majority in the 200-seat Chamber of Deputies.

Miloš Zeman,  Jiří Rusnok
Most commentators initially believed that the caretaker government pushed through by Mr. Zeman would have little chance of winning such a vote. However, its chances of survival appear to be growing.

A survey this week by Mladá fronta Dnes found that none of the parties were united on the matter, with even some MPs from the Civic Democrats and TOP 09 refusing to rule out giving the nod to Rusnok and Co.

One hundred and 12 MPs in total told the newspaper they were opposed to the caretaker cabinet. But some of those – chiefly in the ranks of Mr. Zeman’s former party the Social Democrats – said their position could change after a vote on whether to dissolve parliament scheduled for next Wednesday.

The Social Democrats’ second-in-command and Zeman favourite Michal Hašek attempted to put pressure on the right-wing groupings on Wednesday. He said that if they don’t raise their hands for dissolution – triggering elections within 60 days – his party should consider backing the caretaker cabinet. It, in his view, would be a lesser evil than a reconstituted right-wing coalition.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Rusnok said immediately after the installation of his government that it would be working hard to rally support.

Michal Hašek,  photo: Filip Jandourek
For his part, Mr. Zeman on Thursday again raised the suggestion that Social Democrats’ chairman Bohuslav Sobotka could get a crack at forming a government if Jiří Rusnok’s fails. However, some see this as a move in a complex political chess game rather than a genuine offer.

With the parties elected to the lower house split, the prospect of what many see as the president’s men (and one woman) running the country until regular elections next spring no longer seems so outlandish.