President Zeman hints former centre-right coalition could return to power

Miloš Zeman, photo: CTK

It currently looks unlikely that Czech MPs will approve the Rusnok cabinet in a vote in the lower house in two weeks’ time. President Miloš Zeman has hinted that if it fails, he could give the former centre-right coalition a chance to form the next cabinet. But the president has laid down a condition: before he even considers that, he wants to see notarized signatures of a majority of MPs pledging to back such a cabinet. I asked commentator Erik Best for his reading of Mr Zeman’s latest move.

Miloš Zeman,  photo: CTK
“I think that Mr Zeman likes to make it a practice of saying and doing things that he knows will never be fulfilled. Now he’s saying that if they demonstrate to me that they are able to put together a government, I will consider appointing them. At the same, he says it’s very unlikely that he would actually appoint them. So what Mr Zeman does that is he decides what he wants to happen, and then he makes sure that it works out that way, and that he can blame someone else.”

So what do you think the president’s goal is? Some commentators says he wants to put the Social Democrats under pressure to support the interim cabinet; others believe he’s looking for excuses to keep the Rusnok government in power even after it fails to win confidence from the lower house. What do you think?

“I think that his move yesterday when the president asked for 101 notarized signatures means that he has realized Rusnok’s government will not get approval from the lower hours in the first attempt. I think there was no other reason for him to come up with this requirement now other than to make it more difficult for the former coalition parties to form the government, and to lay the ground for him to appoint someone else the second time around.

Jiří Rusnok,  photo: Filip Jandourek
“But the important point is that the requirement and the bold statement indicates that he thinks the Rusnok government will not be approved.”

Meanwhile, Mr Zeman also seems to busy with his own party, the Citizens’ Rights Party – Zemanites. A deputy chair of that group, Radek Augustin, is now to become the chief of the cabinet’s office. Do you think the Zemanites could become an important political force in time for the next elections?

“I think that is a trick question. Of course, the Zemanites party is an important force because Mr Zeman is able to use them to weaken the Social Democrats. At time though, I don’t think that is a party with any kind of long term future. He is using them to weaken the party he cares about, and those are the Social Democrats.

“What he really wants to do is to take over the Social Democrats and run it, not as the chairman but as the president, and the best way is to divide it, and to divide it, he uses the Zemanites.

Radek Augustin,  photo: CTK
“I think this is perhaps Zeman’s big mistake because by using this very minor party with very weak politician, he’s opening himself up to tremendous criticism. If you follow the news last nigh and today, you will see a shift away from Mr Zeman even by people who have supported him but now find it difficult to support him. This is going to make more Social Democrats hesitant about supporting him.”