“It will be good to have a clear answer”: Fiala-Zeman legal clash looming

Petr Fiala

Battle lines have been drawn in Czech politics. President Miloš Zeman says he will never appoint one of new PM Petr Fiala’s proposed ministers, believed to be foreign affairs nominee Jan Lipavský. Now Mr. Fiala says that if the president fails to name one of his candidates, he will take the matter to the Constitutional Court. I discussed the situation with journalist Andrea Procházková from the weekly Respekt, a law expert.

“It’s a big move, but I think it should have happened earlier, in the time of Andrej Babiš, when the president also tried to block some names and the prime minister, Andrej Babiš, said he wouldn’t take the president to the court.

“And now we have the same situation again.

“So I think it will be a good precedent, that we have a clear answer to this dispute over who has the right, or the power, to choose future ministers.

Andrea Procházková | Photo: Jana Přinosilová,  Czech Radio

“The Constitution says clearly that we are the Czech Republic, we are a parliamentary republic: the government is responsible to the Parliament, especially to the Chamber of Deputies, not to the president.

“That’s why the government has to appear in the Chamber of Deputies within 30 days, because of a confidence vote.

“There is no role for the president in this process – it’s just formal.

“And if our president thinks that there is a role for him, I think the only way to find out is to go to the court.”

Today it’s already two months since the results of the elections came out, and we still don’t have a new government. How long do you think it could take for this whole situation to be resolved, if the prime minister were to take President Zeman to court?

“I think that there are two scenarios.

“The first one is that Petr Fiala files a suit today, tomorrow or next week and we wait for the decision of the Constitutional Court.

“And during this time Andrej Babiš would be governing as a cabinet in resignation – so Fiala has been appointed, but without a cabinet.

“The second scenario is that Fiala proposes a cabinet without a minister for foreign affairs, or he proposes himself as a substitute for this position, and also files a suit.

Miloš Zeman | Photo: Khalil Baalbaki,  Czech Radio

“I think that the second option is more realistic, because the decision of the court could take at least six or seven weeks, because the president has 30 days to give a statement about this action.

“Then after that the Constitutional Court could decide.

“It depends how quickly the judges will decide, but it is a month and a half at least.

“So we could have a government in December, when Petr Fiala will make some compromise by not proposing a candidate for minister for foreign affairs, or we could have a government in January, maybe.”

You are an expert on law. What’s the most likely outcome of all this, do you think?

“I think it’s pretty clear that the Constitutional Court would say that Fiala has the power to choose his own ministers.

“The vast majority of constitutional lawyers think that, and I agree.

“That’s because of the parliamentary system we have.

“That’s why I think the answer is clear, and I think we could say that it will go Fiala’s way, not to the president.”