PM Topolánek replacing four ministers in cabinet reshuffle

Jiří Čunek (left), Mirek Topolánek, photo: CTK

Nearly three months after promising a cabinet reshuffle, the Czech prime minister, Mirek Topolánek, has finally announced which members of his cabinet are to be removed. Making the announcement on Monday, Mr Topolánek said the replacement of four ministers would give his government a “new dynamic”, and improve communication with the public.

Jiří Čunek  (left),  Mirek Topolánek,  photo: CTK
On Monday Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek found time from his busy schedule representing the EU presidency to announce the biggest changes to his government since it was formed two years ago. Leaving the cabinet are Health Minister Tomáš Julínek and Transport Minister Aleš Řebíček, from his Civic Democrats; Humans Rights Minister Džamila Stehlíková, of the Greens; and Christian Democrats leader Jiří Čunek, who hours prior to Monday’s announcement quit as deputy prime and minister of regional development. Mr Topolánek explained the reasons for the reshuffle.

“The changes at ministries should bring a new dynamic to the work of the cabinet, to make it more effective, to improve communication with the public and to reflect the situation from last year. That’s why these changes do not necessarily mean a poor evaluation of the ministers’ work.”

The prime minister promised to replace several of his ministers after October’s Senate and regional elections, in which all three coalition parties suffered a whitewash. The opposition scored high on promises to remove unpopular health care fees, introduced as part of the government’s health care reform early last year. The defeat brought about a conflict in the coalition, which effectively lost its majority in Parliament. Mr Topolánek said soon-to-be-ex Health Minister Julínek failed to convince the coalition partners that the reforms were necessary.

Tomáš Julínek,  photo: CTK
“He has become a sort of magnet for all the negative emotions, for the frustration of health care professionals after 20 years without reforms. In the end, he lost the ability to persuade the coalition partners, as well as both chambers of Parliament, on the issues he and his team had come up with.”

The four ministers will be replaced within ten days. Some of their replacements are already known. The defence minister, Vlasta Parkanová, will also take on the position of deputy prime minister for the Christian Democrats, with that party’s Cyril Svoboda taking over at the regional development ministry. Meanwhile, the Greens will get their wish of seeing rock musician Michael Kocáb inheriting the human rights brief. Civic Democrat Petr Bendl will likely take his party’s berth at the Transport Ministry, and, last but not least, Senator Daniela Filipiová, who is wheelchair-bound, is tipped to become the new minister of health.