Political scientist: President’s reaction may be decisive factor in post-election talks

Miloš Zeman (Foto: ČTK)

As election winner Andrej Babiš tentatively tests the waters with respect to possible coalition partners it is becoming increasingly clear that forming a stable government will not be an easy task. Why are so many parties reluctant to join him in government and what are the outlooks for the Czech Republic? Those are questions I discussed with political scientist Vladimíra Dvořáková from the Prague School of Economics and began by asking how difficult it may prove for Babiš to form a stable government.

Miloš Zeman, photo: CTK
“He has a lot of alternatives but, on the other hand, most of the parties who won seats in the lower house do not want to form a coalition with him. There are two reasons for that. The first is the fact that he was accused of EU subsidy fraud and although he now has parliamentary immunity again the police is likely to request the lower house to strip him of that immunity so that it can press charges, as it did previously. So obviously, it is a problem to enter into a coalition with a prime minister who may be charged. At this moment he is accused, but not charged. So that is one problem and the second one is the experience from the outgoing coalition in which Andrej Babiš used a lot of the advantages it gave him and at the same time he was attacking his partners and creating the impression that he was the victim in this set-up, that everybody was against him.”

Is there any chance that Babiš would stay out of the government in order to ease the way?

“I think not. Possibly only in the event that he would be charged. Under such circumstances there might be pressure from members of his party and others for him to do that. But I think he will not do it at the present time because he was the main reason – the main personality – why people voted for ANO, so he might argue that he has a strong mandate to govern.”

“There are all kinds of alternatives. We may even have early elections. That could happen, but at this moment we can say that if early elections were to take place in two or three months the support for Babiš would be even stronger. So I think that there are several possibilities and the individual players cannot say they will accept something immediately, but I think there will be negotiations that will leaded to the formation of some kind of cabinet.”

Either way, it seems we are facing a drawn-out crisis?

Andrej Babiš, photo: CTK
“Well, you know such negotiations can take weeks or months. Also we have to consider that the presidential elections are coming up in January and another decisive factor will be the reaction of the president. What President Zeman did after the last elections was that he kept in office a cabinet that had no support in the lower house. So we can imagine that if no one wants to collaborate with Mr. Babiš, then the president could appoint him prime minister and we would have something like a caretaker cabinet that will not have won a vote of confidence in the lower house but will govern the country and there is no limit by when the president would have to appoint someone else – which means that Babiš could govern without a vote on confidence in his cabinet until the beginning of March when the president’s mandate ends. And, if Zeman were to get re-elected – this could somehow continue. So there is this uncertainty regarding the behaviour of the president.”