Klaus: timing of constitutional challenge "deliberate" ploy to delay elections

Photo: CTK

On Wednesday the ten most important political figures in the country stood before the TV cameras at Prague Castle and vowed that October’s early elections would go ahead as planned, after the Constitutional Court shocked the country by announcing they would be postponed. That group of ten angry men has now divided into two – one political, one executive – amid feverish preparations to change the Constitution.

Representatives of the media were summoned to Prague Castle again on Thursday morning, this time to hear the outcome of a meeting between the country’s four most senior officials; President Václav Klaus, Senate chairman Přemysl Sobotka, Chamber of Deputies chairman Miloslav Vlček, and interim Prime Minister Jan Fischer.

It was once again the president who read out a pre-prepared statement on behalf of the four men. Václav Klaus said all four were deeply troubled by the Constitutional Court’s move to delay the elections, something that could, they said, destabilize the country. Mr Klaus said the court’s decision to overturn a presidential decree calling early elections on October 9th and 10th violated its legal obligation not to block decisions that were clearly taken in the public interest:

Jan Fischer,  Miloslav Vlček,  Václav Klaus,  Přemysl Sobotka  (left to right),  photo: CTK
“Holding early elections on the date they were supposed to take place is fundamentally in the public interest. For half a year now our country has found itself in a very unstable political situation which can only be resolved by new elections. It is in the public interest - something that affects the whole of Czech society - for those elections to take place as soon as possible. Our country needs a strong and decisive government with a clear political mandate capable of steering the country through the economic crisis and resolving serious problems that affect the lives and fate of millions of citizens.”

Questioned by reporters, President Klaus said the timing of the challenge to the elections was absolutely deliberate. The law to shorten the current electoral term was passed by the Senate back in May, he said, meaning those who challenged it had waited until the last possible moment, to ensure the elections would be delayed.

The complaint came from a disgruntled MP – Miloš Melčák - who claimed his constitutional right to serve out his mandate in full had been curtailed by the shortened electoral term. The court has postponed the elections until it delivers its verdict on the complaint, although a ruling has been brought forward to next Thursday.

The interim prime minister, Jan Fischer, also spoke of the urgent need for his caretaker cabinet to be replaced by a political government with a mandate from a newly elected parliament:

“You all know the economic condition this country is in. The Chamber of Deputies will shortly have the task of discussing a budget that technocrats can put together with the clearest of consciences, but whose fate will depend on a newly configured parliament and a new, political government. This factor is of the utmost importance. Stabilising conditions in the Czech Republic is something that can only be positive for this country and its international image abroad.”

Václav Klaus,  Jan Fischer,  Přemysl Sobotka  (left to right),  photo: CTK
The real work is now being done by a group of legal experts advising the six major political parties who are examining legal avenues to change the Constitution permanently. The change would allow the lower house to dissolve itself with a single vote, rather than the cumbersome path to new elections that currently exists in the Czech Constitution.

On Wednesday the six seemed united in adversity, but already cracks are beginning to show; the leader of the Christian Democrats, Cyril Svoboda, has lambasted attempts to put pressure on the Constitutional Court, while the Social Democrats have already rejected proposals for elections to wait until November.