New Czech Chamber of Deputies convenes for opening session

Illustrative photo: Filip Jandourek

Exactly a month after the country’s early general elections, the newly-elected Chamber of Deputies has convened for its opening session. The house will see the swearing in of 200 deputies representing seven parties and decide the fate of one MP whose stint in office may be over before it has started.

Illustrative photo: Filip Jandourek
Following an enforced three month-break stemming from the fall of the centre-right government and the subsequent dissolution of the lower house, the new assembly of lawmakers are taking up their seats in the Chamber of Deputies. They represent a record number of 7 parties including two newcomers –the ANO and Dawn parties -who rode to success on a wave of public discontent. Also uncharacteristically, thirty-six of the newly elected deputies have no party allegiance and were elected to office on the ticket of a party which is close to their own political convictions.

In the coming days the assembly will be electing the chairman of the lower house, four to five deputy chairpersons and members of various committees. Under an agreement between the two strongest parties –the Social Democrats and ANO – it is the Social Democrats who will be nominating a candidate for the top post – most likely the seasoned Social Democrat MP Jan Hamáček. In view of the seven parties represented in the lower house there is expected to be a battle over the deputy-chair posts with ANO, the Communist Party and TOP 09 likely to be represented due to their high number of mandates.

Jan Hamáček,  photo: Khalil Baalbaki
No party has a majority in the lower house and three parties are now holding negotiations on forming a government – the Social Democrats with 50 mandates, ANO with 47 and the Christian Democrats with a mere 14 deputies. The parties are hoping to agree on a new government by the end of the year and after its appointment it would have 30 days to ask the lower house for a vote of confidence.

In the meantime, the assembly needs to fully restore legal order by debating a number of legal provisions passed by the Senate during the three months when it was the sole legislative body functioning in the country. Under the Czech Constitution legal provisions passed by the Senate have the force of laws but only have a validity of 3 months by which time they must be sanctioned –or rejected – by the lower chamber.

Bronislav Schwarz,  photo: archive of ANO
And finally, the house will most likely have to debate the case of Bronislav Schwarz, a newly-elected deputy for the ANO party whose stint in the lower house may end before it has properly begun. The police have announced they will ask the immunity committee to release him for prosecution on suspicion of abuse of office and restricting personal freedom at a time when as head of the police department in Most he raided a flat without waiting for a court order. Deputy Schwarz whose parliamentary immunity came automatically into effect with his election has said he will cooperate fully with the authorities. Meanwhile, another MP whose past has caught up with him is Miloslav Bačiak from the ANO party who is giving up his mandate in connection with information that surfaced about his communist past. He failed to show up at Monday’s session because for the time being there is still no one to whom he can tender his resignation.