New lower house of Parliament holds first session

Photo: CTK

On Tuesday, 114 MPs in the 200 member lower house of Parliament will take an oath of loyalty for the first time, as the Chamber meets in its first session following last month’s elections. The new lower house will be far different from that which preceded it: for one, more women MPs than ever were elected and are also expected to hold key posts as lower house speaker and deputy chairpersons. Secondly, the new lower house will be slimmed of numerous committees as part of necessary cost-cutting measures, a move decided on Monday by the three parties negotiating on the next government.

Photo: CTK
Already it’s clear that the new lower house – meeting in its constituent session on Tuesday – will at least in some aspects be far different than those which preceded it. MPs elected for two new parties, the conservative T0P 09 and the centre-right Public Affairs, will take their seats for the first time, and historically more MPs than ever before are women: 44 – an increase of four percent from the previous Chamber of Deputies.

Women, also, are expected to hold three key posts including that of deputy chairpersons and speaker of the lower house. On Tuesday, the three centre-right parties in talks on forming the next government, the Civic Democrats, TOP 09 and Public Affairs, who enjoy a comfortable majority of 118 seats, agreed on the division of posts and the reduction of deputy posts from five to three.

Kateřina Klasnová  (right),  photo: CTK
The Civic Democrats are putting forward well-known politician Miroslava Němcová for the post of speaker, Public Affairs the newcomer Kateřina Klasnová and TOP 09 apparently the former defence minister Vlasta Parkanová for deputy chairwomen. That will leave only a final deputy position open for the Social Democrats now headed for the opposition. They have backed the seasoned Lubomír Zaorálek for the job but have also expressed disappointment that future government MPs are opting not to back an opposition MP for speaker instead.

Other changes within the new lower house will namely be the reduction of various committees and sub-committees as part of necessary cost-cutting measures. Sources have pointed out that in 1996 there were far fewer in the Chamber of Deputies than was the case over the last four years: 12 committees and one sub-committee then – 18 committees and 56 sub-committees since 2006. In reality, that meant that a mere 33 out of 200 MPs in the house were not receiving extra funds for serving in additional posts and capacities. All told, the committees cost 14.6 million crowns – expenses that will be scaled back substantially, the three parties aiming to form the next government have promised as part of austerity measures.

Karel Schwarzenberg,  Petr Nečas,  Radek John,  photo: CTK
In their own symbolic way, the 24 newly-elected MPs for Public Affairs, the centre-right upstart party that is pressing for tougher measures, along with TOP 09 and the Civic Democrats, took the tram to the Chamber on Tuesday, each paying their way. Members, led by party leader Radek John, wanted to point out that MPs needed to pay for public transportation and not ride free as has been the case until now, an unnecessary benefit for lawmakers they want changed.

Meanwhile, even as the session gets underway, talks on the new government among the three parties have slowly but surely continued, with agreement to be reached at the latest by July 7. In that light, it now appears almost certain that the president will appoint Civic Democrat leader Petr Nečas the prime minister-designate. In anticipation of such a move, the country’s interim prime minister Jan Fischer said on Monday that his cabinet could resign by the end of this week, remaining in place only for an interim period, securing continuity, before Mr Nečas and the new government are appointed.