Pavel criticises government communication – but is he right?

Petr Pavel

President Petr Pavel has repeatedly said this week that Petr Fiala’s coalition government is poor in communication with the public, echoing a commonly heard assertion. But is the head of state correct on this point? I spoke to political scientist Jiří Pehe.  

Jiří Pehe | Photo: Tomáš Roček,  Czech Radio

“I’m afraid that President Pavel is right, because the government really does not communicate well with the public.

“There are some steps that would really need much more explaining, if the government wants to convince the public that its policies are correct.

“But unfortunately what we see is that individual ministers quite often make statements about particular steps which are not coordinated with the rest of the government.

“Then we often see that other ministers often criticise those proposals – and that creates a lot of confusion in the public.

“It seems to me that the main problem is a certain lack of leadership on the level of the prime minister.

“Mr. Fiala was very productive and very good during the big international crises of 2022, but he has sort of disappeared in the last few weeks.”

Petr Fiala | Photo: archive of the Office of Czech Government

It this poor coordination within the cabinet, as you see it, in part at least due to the fact it’s a five-party coalition?

“Yes. Unfortunately this current coalition suffers from what could have been expected, and that it is that consists of too many parties, which, on top of that, are not really ideologically on the same wavelength, so to speak.

“On the one hand we have conservatives, such as the Civic Democratic Party and the Christian Democrats, and on the other we have progressivists in the form of the Pirates.”

The five-party coalition | Photo: ČT24

A recent poll gave the Fiala government the worst approval rating since Necaš’s cabinet a decade ago. But isn’t that almost inevitable, given the economic situation? If you have long-term double-digit inflation, aren’t people just going to be unhappy anyway?

“Yes, I think that of course the economic situation that we are in contributes to a certain lack of satisfaction with the government; that’s natural.

“On the other hand I think that some of this could be avoided if the government communicated better about its steps.”

Photo: geralt,  Pixabay,  Pixabay License

If you were an advisor to the government, what would be one piece of advice you would give to them on how to improve their communication, if it is so bad?

“I would advise them to act as one entity.

“I would advise the prime minister to call his ministers and tell them that no important piece of information, no proposal that has an impact on the Czech public, can be made by a particular minister without consultation with the prime minister – and better still it should be made by the prime minister.

“So any changes that affect especially the state finances and people’s well-being should be discussed behind the scenes, so to speak – and they should be presented to the public by the prime minister, who should be responsible for leading the government and should project the image of a leader. Which currently we don’t see.”