Opposition slams government, finance minister, in no confidence vote proceedings

Andrej Babiš, Bohuslav Sobotka, Pavel Bělobrádek, photo: CTK

The ruling coalition of the Social Democrats, ANO and the Christian Democrats faced a vote of no confidence initiated by the centre-right opposition on Tuesday, a year-and-a-half in power. With a comfortable majority in the lower house there was never any danger the government might fall, something admitted by the opposition, who used the opportunity to “at least” slam the government for perceived shortcomings.

Andrej Babiš,  Bohuslav Sobotka,  Pavel Bělobrádek,  photo: CTK
The vote of no confidence never stood a chance and the government passed with a comfortable buffer but opposition leaders tried nevertheless to capitalise on the situation and criticise their political opponents, alleging conflict of interest by Finance Minister Andrej Babiš. The owner of business empire Agrofert has often come up against opposition charges he often operates in conflict of interest; the most recent is that he stands to benefit from a bill approved last week extending state support for bio fuel. Miroslav Kalousek, deputy leader of TOP 09 and former finance minister one of Mr Babiš’ staunchest critics said this:

“We are not going just let you get on with this kind of work unchecked. You cannot. Because it is wrong and one should not steal, and we simply will not let you steal at will.”

Mr Babiš, who has rapidly traded barbs with his predecessor in recent weeks and months, shrugged off any hints or charges of wrongdoing.

“I would be very happy if you would stop lying. If you would allow our government to work and introduce new legislation because I think our cabinet is a successful one.”

In the vote, only 47 lawmakers out of 184 present supported the no confidence motion while 105 voted against and 32 abstained. The first such test showed that for the time being the ruling coalition need not worry. At this stage, it appears highly unlikely any cracks will emerge. After all was said and done, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka called the definitive result “a signal for the government” to continue in its policies and current direction, adding that it would be “business as usual” next week.

Miroslav Kalousek,  photo: CTK
“I think it was clear from even before that the opposition did not have the clout to topple this government.”

That, in fact, has only happened once in the Czech Republic’s history: in 2009, Mirek Topolánek’s coalition was toppled in a vote initiated by the Social Democrats during the EU presidency. Miroslav Kalousek, who was part of that cabinet, insisted just the same that Tuesday’s vote was important even if it didn’t succeed.

“It served its purpose. Every objective viewer could judge for themselves that the finance minister and his closet cronies lied several times and that he and Agrofert are benefiting at the expense of public finances.”