Pressure mounts on ANO leader facing challenge to form new government

Andrej Babiš, foto: ČTK

The minority government of Andrej Babiš has decided to resign following its failure to win a vote of confidence in the lower house of parliament. The ANO leader will still get another attempt to win support for a government but under stepped up pressure to hold meaningful negotiations with other parties which might result in a coalition.

Andrej Babiš, photo: CTK
Prime Minister Andrej Babiš lost no time following the failed vote of confidence in his government and on Wednesday morning his Cabinet of ANO party members and experts decided to resign. Babiš announced in the following press conference that he would present the resignation in person to head of state, President Miloš Zeman – himself currently seeking support in the midst of an election battle to gain five more years in the post. The ANO leader is expected to make the trip to Prague Castle, the president’s office, by the end of the week.

The confidence vote itself left little room for equivocation and was hardly a surprise. In the end, Prime Minister Babiš gained just 78 votes with 117 lawmakers against. Those in favour exactly equalled the number of ANO deputies in the lower house and fell well short of the 98 that would have been needed for the motion to pass.

And the speeches from other party leaders echoed the frequent charge that Prime Minister Babiš had made no real attempts to widen his support since last October’s election win and put together a stable coalition rather than a minority government based on the tolerance or tepid support. Tomio Okamura of Freedom and Democracy slammed the PM for trying to go it alone.

“More than 70 percent of Czechs did not vote for Andrej Babiš or his program. So it is unacceptable that he would govern alone and not share influence in the running of the state.”

Critics charge that Babiš himself contributed to the impression of a half-hearted attempt to broaden support with past declarations that single party government is much simpler and coalitions led to complications and in-fighting. He also defended his position, saying after the election, no one really wanted to deal.

“All of those who are now saying we didn’t try hard enough after the election forget that were immediately and categorically rejected right away by almost everyone.”

Miloš Zeman, photo: CTK
Mr Babiš has been promised a second shot at forming a government by President Zeman and a generous time for negotiations to take place with other leaders the rules of the game will be significantly different the next time round. Firstly, in a surprise move Zeman increased the pressure for Babiš to carry out meaningful negotiations with other parties by demanding he shows proof of a majority in parliament – 101 votes in the 200-seat lower chamber before a second government is named.

The pressure on all leaders to do a deal avoiding early elections will be felt across the Czech political scene.

It could be summed up a bit this way, there’s quite of lot of pride and ego involved in the process. Voting support in a first vote of confidence for other parties might be seen like going all the way on a first date. With a few concessions and promises further down the line, the step somehow appears more acceptable.