Political scientist: Gov. will pay high price for austerity package, but may still regain public trust

Halfway through its term in office the Fiala administration has pushed through a package of austerity measures aimed at reducing the steep deficit in public finances. In order to do so, it had to break its election promise not to raise taxes. So how high a price will the government pay for the reforms that 80 percent of Czechs fear? A question we put to political scientist Jiří Pehe.

“I think that the government will, unfortunately, pay a relatively high price in terms of public opinion, because the way they have prepared this package and the way they have communicated it has been quite unfortunate. And I think that, even if this package does what it is supposed to do, i.e. decrease the budget deficit in the Czech Republic, it will still take some time for the government to recover.”

According to a recent poll 80 percent of Czechs are concerned about the impact of the package on their family finances and trust in the government has plummeted to a mere 25 percent. Can the Fiala administration hope to win it back before the next elections in 2025?

Jiří Pehe | Photo: Luboš Vedral,  Czech Radio

“I think that the government still has a chance to recover in public opinion simply because we don’t really know what the impact of the austerity package will be. It could be in some ways positive and although a lot of people are afraid of the impact it will have on their finances it may be the right step forward because the Czech state finances are in disarray. Next year the situation may look very different, especially if you consider that inflation will probably go down and energy prices will stabilize. But, for the government to improve its standing with the public, it would need to start communicating more clearly, to have a leader who is able to project the image of someone who really leads and not just someone who is mostly commenting on the actions of his colleagues in the government. So there’s a lot of work to do, but with this very difficult political step which this package represents out of the way, the government still has a chance to recover in public opinion.”

And does the government have what it takes to implement the package effectively?

“Yes, I think that the government may be able to implement most of the measures it is preparing. But at the same time the implementation of the package may be hampered by the same problems we saw when it was being prepared, i.e. sometimes really bad communication in the government and a rather weak ability to present to the public what the government wants to do.”