Outgoing PM Fischer, cabinet, thanked by Czech president

Václav Klaus, Jan Fischer (right), photo: CTK

The head of the caretaker Czech government Jan Fischer tendered his resignation at Prague Castle on Friday, meeting with President Václav Klaus, who thanked him and the cabinet for governing during a difficult period. Originally, the interim government, formed after the previous one lost a vote of no-confidence, had been expected to rule for only a few months, fulfilling only a few key tasks. In the end, following cancelled elections last October, it stayed on for longer than anyone had expected.

Václav Klaus, Jan Fischer (right), photo: CTK
Jan Fischer was largely unknown to the public when he was tasked with leading the country’s interim government last year, tasked with seeing out the final months of the EU presidency, pushing through austerity measures to cut the deficit, and leading the country to early elections. Now, Mr Fischer is a household name. A statistician by profession, who had headed the Czech Statistical Office, he did not shy away from responsibility, even if in the end the cabinet stayed on for a good half year longer than previously expected. It wasn’t an easy task President Václav Klaus himself noted on Friday as he thanked Mr Fischer and the cabinet for their service:

“This government was formed unexpectedly in very difficult conditions, and I think we can say that it fulfilled its role to the utmost. At a difficult time, whether it was during the Czech EU Presidency or the economic crisis, it was able to govern properly.”

Jan Fischer, photo: CTK
In the beginning, the cabinet of experts (whose members had been nominated by the country’s two largest parties, the Civic and Social Democrats, together with the Greens) earned high favor in the public eye, successfully completing the last three months of the EU presidency, preparing an austerity budget and several other tasks. But if it gained in popularity at first, there were certainly moments, too, when it floundered just a little bit; political analyst Vladimíra Dvořáková teaches at Prague’s University of Economics:

“We have to take into the consideration the role of the cabinet and the fact that it was supposed to govern for only a very short period and then it was prolonged. So from the very beginning, there was no long-term perspective for the cabinet and it was only a caretaker government that did basic administration. It worked fairly well, although before the election there were some internal political clashes. But most of the members were able to work as experts despite a few conflicts. The bigger problem was that the cabinet was unable to tackle deeper reforms because of a lower level of legitimacy.”

Petr Nečas, photo: CTK
As Mrs Dvořáková points out, problems among cabinet ministers according to political leanings did appear in the run up to the election and if Mr Fischer was criticised, although mildly, it was for failing to fully reel in some members towards the end. Still, for the most part, problems were kept to a minimum. Now Mr Fischer will ready for a short break and then take up the post of vice-president at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The cabinet in resignation of course won’t depart from one day to the next: it will continue to lead the country for still a little while longer until the new cabinet is named. Petr Nečas, slated to be the country’s next prime minister, would like an agreement on the government by the three parties in negotiation – the Civic Democrats, TOP 09 and Public Affairs – to be reached in early July.