Opposition parties to initiate no-confidence motion in Babiš minority government

Leaders of opposition parties

The leaders of five opposition parties in the lower house on Wednesday announced their intention to initiate a vote of no-confidence in the minority government of Prime Minister Andrej Babiš. Although general elections are just five months away, the prime minister’s critics say it is important to test the degree of support the government has in the lower chamber.

The notion of initiating a no-confidence vote in the Babiš government has been bandied around the lower house ever since the Communist Party officially withdrew its support for the minority government in mid-April. However, with elections just around the corner, it is obvious that the aim is not to remove the government from office, so much as to hold it accountable for its failures and understate its growing isolation. The leader of the Civic Democrats Petr Fiala said the time had come to act:

"We are convinced that this government is hurting the country, that it is not up to the tasks at hand and if there is anyone benefiting from its rule it is the prime minister himself with his enormous conflict of interest.“

Andrej Babiš,  Petr Arenberger | Photo: Michaela Říhová,  ČTK

His words were echoed by the leaders of the Christian Democrats, TOP 09, the Pirate Party and Mayors and Independents who say they have the necessary 50 signatures from MPs needed to initiate a motion of no-confidence. They plan to do so at the beginning of June. The criticism heaped on the government includes mishandling the Covid epidemic which resulted in the Czech Republic having the highest death rate per capita in the world, the half a billion crown deficit in public financing, the suspicions surrounding Deputy Prime Minister Jan Hamáček’s planned trip to Moscow and most recently, irregularities in Health Minister Petr Arenberger’s tax returns.

Prime Minister Andrej Babiš has dismissed the criticism as election rhetoric.

"We are constantly hearing about plans for a no-confidence vote. Why would anyone call a no-confidence motion five months ahead of the elections? We have got the epidemic under control, we are pushing ahead with inoculation. We are easing the restrictions imposed and bringing life in the country back to normal."

The prime minister moreover noted that the opposition had scheduled the no-confidence motion after the departure of 63 Russian diplomats from the country at the end of May –in what he described as the culmination of the biggest security operation in the country’s modern history.

In order to win the no-confidence motion in the government the opposition needs 101 votes. Both the Freedom and Direct Democracy Party and the Communists have indicated they may support the motion. Together with the independents they could theoretically put together 102 votes. However, even if they do, it will merely be a symbolic gesture. President Miloš Zeman has already made it clear that if the government should lose the vote he will allow it to continue to rule in demise. Whatever the outcome, the battle lines are drawn, and the Czech Republic is clearly in for a long, hot summer.