PM Bohuslav Sobotka steps into breach as stop gap industry minister
After the sudden, if not totally surprising, announcement that long time Social Democrat stalwart Jan Mládek, would be dismissed as minister for industry and trade at the start of the week, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka was expected to follow through by announcing a replacement on Thursday night. Those expectations were confounded.
“I expect this appointment to be temporary. I have no ambition to head the Ministry of Industry and Trade until the elections to the lower house of parliament. I expect that following the Social Democratic party congress, I should be able to propose to the president a candidate who will join the government and lead the ministry until the elections.”
The Social Democrat Party congress is scheduled for March 10. Sobotka’s main task there will be to win support from an out of sorts party to lead it into elections to the lower house of parliament due in October.
Sobotka also expects his short-lived term as industry minister to shake-up of costly mobile data charges in the Czech Republic, the cause of the final rift with Jan Mládek that prompted his dismissal. PM Sobotka again:
“I expect the Ministry of Industry and Trade to push through to a conclusion very quickly changes affecting the market for mobile phone operators, legislative changes which should improve the rights of consumers and reduce mobile data costs. I will personally oversee these changes in the next days and weeks.”
But the president’s spokesman suggested that Prouza might not be a welcome choice because he is allegedly close to non-profit organisations which frequently target Miloš Zeman for criticism. Prouza, as well as other possible candidates, might also have reservations about taking up a still highly charged industry ministry dossier for just seven months before elections could see them ejected.
As well as the question of mobile data, the ministry should be piloting the construction of high speed internet across the country, nominating a new board and boss at the energy regulator, attempting to plot the future of struggling coal mining company OKD and help keep one of the country’s biggest engineering companies, Vítkovice, afloat.