Public Affairs’s deputy chair Karolína Peake: we will support reform bills despite coalition infighting

Karolína Peake, photo: CTK

The lower house of the Czech Parliament is in session debating a series of reform bills. But the government that has vowed to implement them has been entangled in a drawn-out political crisis, fuelled by recurring clashes between the junior Public Affairs party on the one hand and the Civic Democrats and TOP 09 on the other. On Tuesday, Public Affairs announced they would give their coalition partners another three weeks to fulfil their demands, including more ministerial posts within the centre-right government. Radio Prague spoke to the Public Affairs deputy chair Karolína Peake and asked her to clarify her party’s future within the coalition.

Karolína Peake, photo: CTK
“I realize it’s difficult to understand for the public to understand what’s going on; I must admit that sometimes, it’s difficult even for an insider to understand what’s going on in the Czech Republic.

“What we did yesterday was the result of long negotiations within our deputy group where we decided that we do not want to cause the fall of the government on the day we start debating long-awaited reform bills. We decided to postpone the date until we are ready to negotiate our representation within the government. We would like to be understood as a constructive party within the coalition and give our partners and ourselves enough time to talk until the end of June.

“At the next meeting of coalition leaders which will take place this week, all coalition parties should present their ideas of what we should be included in a planned amendment to the coalition agreement.”

The lower house started on Tuesday debating a number of reform bills, as you said, ranging from social and welfare reform to a new Civil Code. Are you going to back those bills even if your coalition partners don’t fulfil your demands?

Radek John, photo: CTK
“During this session of the lower house, we are going to support all the bills; we took part in their creation. We would be destroying our own work.”

Your party chair, Radek John said that crucial part of your agenda was a bill that will ban bearer shares, a move that should curb corruption. What will happen if your coalition partners refuse to back this bill?

“We already notified our coalition partners several weeks ago that this is an issue we would like to discuss at our coalition meetings. Our partners have accepted this and I think both the Civic Democrats and TOP 09 want, together with us, to send out a clear message to the public that we’re willing to do more than what is in the coalition agreement to fight corruption.

“I already talked to the justice minister about making relevant changes to the new commercial and civil codes which will allow us to ban bearer shares.”

Some commentators have pointed out that your party might be one most afraid of possible early elections. If the situation within the government does not reach any resolution, would you consider pushing for an early election?

“First of all, I don’t think that early elections would be the first option on the table should this government fall. I’m sure there would be more attempts to form another type of government.

“We are of course not looking forward to an early election and we consider it the last resort. However, we wouldn’t be the only ones afraid of early elections. I think all the parties would have a very difficult time running campaigns, given the political atmosphere in the Czech Republic.”