PM Sobotka: path is clear for new centre-left government

Bohuslav Sobotka, photo: CTK

Newly appointed Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka on Monday presented an official list of ministerial candidates to the president, expressing confidence that the nominations would be accepted and his government would be up and running by the end of the month.

Bohuslav Sobotka,  photo: CTK
After weeks of delay, the incoming prime minister appeared upbeat and confident as he briefed journalists on the outcome of his meeting with the head of state. He confirmed that the president still had reservations with regard to several ministers in his cabinet line-up but expressed confidence that, having had his say, President Zeman would not try to force any changes.

“The list of candidates I handed to the president today has not undergone any changes. These are the candidates put forward by the three coalition parties and I believe that each and every nominee is fully qualified for the given post. The president confirmed his intention to appoint a new government by the end of the month and he gave no indication that he would refuse to name any of the nominees put forward.”

Under the coalition agreement the new centre-left government will have 17 members, with the Social Democrats controlling eight ministries, Andrej Babiš’s ANO party six and the Christian Democrats three. Before appointing the new cabinet President Milos Zeman is planning to meet separately with all ministerial nominees to find out more about their plans in office. Former diplomat Martin Stropnický who has been nominated for the post of defense minister is one of the nominees against whom the president has raised serious objections on the grounds that he has no previous experience in the field. Mr. Stropnický said he was not unsettled by the upcoming confrontation.

Martin Stropnický,  photo: CTK
“I am not sitting a school leaving exam. I will meet with the president and we will talk and if he has any objections to my nomination I am confident I will be able to diffuse his concerns.”

After weeks of speculation that the president might try to bring matters to ahead and refuse to name a new cabinet, commentators now hold the view that this face-to- face meeting with nominees, will be his last show of resistance in the matter.

The newly-appointed prime minister, who was not a favourite with the president, appears to have won his own battle in this respect. After surviving a post-election putsch within the Social Democratic party hatched by some of the president’s supporters in the party, Mr. Sobotka has come out of the confrontation stronger and clearly more determined to stand up to the head-of-state. He and the president appear to have found a modus vivendi and Mr. Sobotka says he is confident the Office of the President and the Government will cooperate in the country’s best interests.

“We talked for longer at this meeting, but it was not due to conflicting issues. We spoke about future cooperation between the president and the government and I believe that we can establish a good working relationship. We are particularly interested in achieving greater coordination on foreign policy matters. I feel it would greatly improve the Czech Republic’s image for the country to be more predictable and for the foreign minister, prime minister and president to speak as one voice. “

Andrej Babiš,  photo: CTK
In the meantime the lower house is debating a new civil service law –the last possible hitch on the road to a new government. Its approval is a condition for the president to appoint to office ANO leader Andrej Babiš, who has been unable to produce a clean screening certificate. The chances are this last condition will also be met since the new government has a comfortable 111-seat majority in the lower house and while the opposition says the new law has been tailored to serve one man, the coalition says it will de-politicize the public service.