Minority coalition set to win vote of confidence

Andrej Babiš, photo: ČTK / Michal Krumphanzl

A minority coalition of ANO and the Social Democrats is undergoing a vote of confidence in the Chamber of Deputies on Wednesday. Although Prime Minister Andrej Babiš doesn’t have a majority, he will in all probability succeed in his second attempt form a government, after having secured a deal with the Communists who pledged to back the coalition during key votes.

Andrej Babiš,  photo: ČTK / Michal Krumphanzl
More than 260 days after ANO secured almost 30 percent of the vote in general elections, its coalition government with the Social Democrats seems likely to win Wednesday’s vote of confidence. With the support of the Communist party, Prime Minister Babiš is expected to secure the absolute majority of the votes he needs to win the confidence of the lower house.

Ahead of the debate and eventual vote in parliament, dozens of demonstrators gathered outside the government building on Wednesday morning to protest against having a prime minister in place who faces criminal charges and a government which will have to rely on support from the Communists.

It will be for the first time the Communist Party has acquired a share of power since 1989. The Communists linked their support for Mr. Babiš to a number of conditions, including a gradual minimum wage hike and support for a law taxing Church restitutions.

Miloš Zeman,  photo: ČTK / Roman Vondrouš
The lower house session opened on Wednesday morning with a speech by President Miloš Zeman, who came in person to express his support for the coalition government, whose formation he has long advocated:

“I believe it is a duty of every president to support a government he previously appointed. I would like to congratulate all the leaders of the three coalition parties, and I hope this will be a successful outcome of long negotiations. I also hope that the lower house will give the government a vote of confidence.”

Ahead of his speech, deputies of the opposition TOP 09 left their seats to protests against President Zeman’s support for a government backed by the Communist party.

Photo: Barbora Němcová,  Radio Prague International
In his own speech, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš acknowledged that the government negotiations had proven to be very complicated and taken much longer than he had originally expected. He also said he was confident that the coalition government has come up with a very good programme:

“The main priorities of our government include pension reform, digitalisation, the fight for Czech interests within the European Union, the fight for European interests within the world, in which we want to take active part, a strategic investment programme, reform of the state and the strengthening of security.”

The biggest surprise came from former interior minister Milan Chovanec of the Social Democrats, who announced that he wouldn’t support the coalition government, arguing that it went against his conscience.

Jan Kněžínek,  photo: ČTK / Michal Kamaryt
Meanwhile, the leader of the opposition Civic Democrats, Jiří Fiala, noted that the government was asking for a vote of confidence while still being incomplete. Mr Fiala hinted to the fact that the post of foreign minister was temporarily filled by the new interior minister, Jan Hamáček, while the current Minister of Justice, Jan Kněžínek, had only been appointed that very morning.

The lower house session is likely to continue until late afternoon, after the recording of our regular Radio Prague programme.