Prime Minister Nečas moves to try and break coalition deadlock

Petr Nečas

The on-going crisis within the Czech government has come to a point where a mere meeting of coalition leaders might be a significant step ahead. After President Václav Klaus refused to accept the proposed changes to the cabinet until he was told exactly how things would proceed, Prime Minister Petr Nečas gave way and convened an informal meeting of Civic Democrat, TOP 09 and Public Affairs leaders for Wednesday night that should come up with ways of breaking the deadlock within the coalition. Radio Prague spoke to commentator Erik Best, and asked him whether he thought this could bring the crisis to an end.

Petr Nečas, photo: CTK
“I think it will depend on what the outcome of the meeting is, and whether at this point Mr Nečas is prepared to name the replacements for the outgoing Public Affairs ministers. One thing that President Klaus is concerned about is who will be appointed to fill these positions. There are various political and business interests in the country, and certain ministers would not be acceptable. If Petr Nečas has to say in advance who these people are, it’s more likely that Mr Klaus would cause trouble.

“What Prime Minister Nečas would like to do is to have a free hand in naming whomever he wants, which technically he’s allowed to do according to the constitution. But Václav Klaus is using the opportunity to really push the bounds of the constitution.”

The Interior Ministry seems to be the core of the dispute. Public Affairs said they would under no condition give it up. At the same time PM Nečas again stressed that Public Affairs could no longer control it. Do you think this might be the point of no return for the coalition?

Václav Klaus, photo: CTK
“I think there is a possibility that they would reach a complete deadlock on this issue. However, there have been signs that they might be able to agree whereby Public Affairs would get a top deputy minister position that could even go to the current Interior Minister, Radek John, or that they would get another ministry in exchange. All sides have been very blunt in their demands but they have also shown some willingness to negotiate and compromise. In fact, the only one who hasn’t any willingness to compromise is President Klaus.”

What do you think caused all this? Some commentators pointed out that regardless of how appalled the leaders of the other two coalition parties might be over the alleged business plan, revealed last week by one of the Czech dailies showing Public Affairs was established as some sort of political division of the security firm ABL, the other political parties have been doing the same for years, but just did not talk about it as openly as Public Affairs leader Vít Bárta. What do you think of that?

Radek John, photo: CTK
“The importance of Public Affairs and the business plan of Vít Bárta is in that there is a new element in the domain of public authority which is somewhat disrupting the existing power structures. I think the main difference between the outgoing Transport Minister Vít Bárta and Miroslav Kalousek, the finance minister and a TOP 09 leader, is not so much in the methods they use. I think they use some of the same methods in dealing politically and in a commercial way with their rivals. But I think that Mr Kalousek does it within the existing power structures, and he recognizes who the main players are, both politically and commercially. He might push them but he does not directly challenge or go against them. He tries to work within the existing system.”