Klaus tells Chamber strong government majority presents rare chance to implement reforms

Václav Klaus, photo: CTK

On Tuesday morning Václav Klaus addressed deputies in the lower house of the Czech Parliament for only the second time since his election as president. In his speech, Mr Klaus said the new government’s strong majority created an opportunity for economic reform that may not come again. He also called on MPs to reign in the country’s top court.

Václav Klaus,  photo: CTK
In a speech to a packed Chamber of Deputies that lasted just over 15 minutes, President Václav Klaus made reference to recent changes on the Czech political scene, when the new parties TOP 09 and Public Affairs did extremely well in elections and entered government with the traditional party of the right in the Czech Republic the Civic Democrats.

Mr Klaus said the country’s political map had been redrawn in May’s “small voters’ revolution”, adding, however, that new parties had emerged before only to disappear again a short time later.

The coalition has pledged to balance the budget by 2016 and says it will introduce fundamental reforms in a number of key areas, including pensions and health care. Between them the three parties have the biggest majority ever seen in the lower house, a fact the president referred to in his address.

“If the governing coalition maintains basic cohesion, we have an opportunity that may not come again. The clear division of forces provides the hope that the complicated reforms that stand before us – and which collectively come under the title of the public finance deficit – have at this moment a greater chance of being resolved than in previous years.”

Photo: CTK
Mr Klaus made the point that parliament might look rather different if early elections scheduled for last autumn had not been blocked by the Constitutional Court, which upheld a challenge from one MP. That delay benefited some small parties, who would very probably not have done as well in October as they did in May.

The president himself has had disagreements with the Constitutional Court in the past, most notably on the issue of the European Union’s Lisbon treaty.

He described the court’s actions in relation to the date of the elections as an “unprecedented intervention”, and called on MPs to redefine the institution’s powers.

“If the trend that we have seen here and all over Europe in recent years for various courts to usurp more powers than they possess continues, that is destructive to democracy. We cannot accept a situation in which the Constitutional Court, instead of interpreting the constitution, autonomously interferes in the fundamental law of our country, and above the framework of its powers changes the constitution.”

Václav Klaus,  photo: CTK
Tuesday’s address was only Václav Klaus’s second such appearance since 2003, the year of his election as president. By contrast his predecessor Václav Havel was a regular visitor to the Chamber of Deputies, making eight speeches there between 1993 and 2002.

It is not entirely clear why Mr Klaus decided to make a second address a full seven years after his first, though he did point out that he is now at the half-way point of his second and final term. The president may perhaps have also wished to air some of his views ahead of local and Senate elections in the middle of next month.