Outcome unclear as Social Democrats vote on whether to enter coalition with ANO

Jan Hamáček, photo: ČTK/Šimánek Vít

The latest step in the lengthy search for a Czech government has got underway, with members of the Social Democrats voting in an internal referendum on whether to go into coalition with ANO. However, there is some opposition to such a move within the left-wing party – and the result of the balllot won’t be known until mid-June.

Jan Hamáček,  photo: ČTK/Šimánek Vít
After heading the last government, the Social Democrats came sixth in October’s elections on under 7.5 percent of the vote.

At present the party’s leaders are attempting to form a minority coalition with the elections’ overwhelming winners, ANO. Such an alliance would in theory be supported on key votes by the Communist Party.

In an unusual move, the leadership of the Social Democrats have called an internal referendum on whether the party should hitch their wagon to Andrej Babiš’s ANO, who are offering them five ministerial portfolios.

Jan Hamáček is the Social Democrats’ chairman.

“The voting slips have been printed up, so now nothing stands in the way of local party branches voting. The vote will take place in the usual way. An electoral commission will count the votes and the result will be announced within an hour of the completion of the election.”

The party’s 17,700 or so members will cast secret votes at around 1,100 local branches.

Some local party bosses have already recommended that their members back a coalition with ANO.

But other branches look set to reject the deal, favouring a spell on the opposition benches.

Among those against the mooted coalition is Senate speaker Milan Štěch.

He told Czech Television the Social Democrats had seen enough of ANO chief Andrej Babiš in recent years.

“Our experience, especially of Andrej Babiš, in the last government was very bad. He always put just his own interests first. The whole time he was working hard to damage the Social Democrats as much as possible.”

Andrej Babiš,  photo: ČTK/Říhová Michaela
Other factors are also at play. President Miloš Zeman has come out against the Social Democrats’ choice for foreign minister, Miroslav Poche, saying he is soft on migrants.

In response, ANO leader Babiš has said he would not like to see a split with the head of state on foreign policy.

Another issue is the backing of the Communists’, without which the possible two-party minority cabinet would appear dead in the water. They are demanding that the pairing drop plans to expand troop numbers abroad.

In any case, there won’t be a new Czech government in the very near future. The Social Democrats are giving themselves a full three and a half weeks to ballot their members and the vote will not conclude until June 14.