Report: president would refuse to appoint Zaorálek as foreign minister

Lubomír Zaorálek, photo: Filip Jandourek

Negotiations on the new government between the Social Democrats, ANO 2011 and the Christian Democrats are continuing with the number of cabinet seats being floated at 17 or 18. But regarding who will serve in the cabinet, the parties are keeping quiet. There is growing speculation Lubomír Zaorálek or Jiří Dienstbier could be forward by the Social Democrats, but also concern that the president would refuse to appoint them.

Lubomír Zaorálek,  photo: Filip Jandourek
Lubomír Zaorálek is a former speaker of the Chamber of Deputies and senior Social Democrat who failed to back Miloš Zeman back in 2003 in his first and unsuccessful presidential bid, while Jiří Dienstbier was a strong opponent of Mr Zeman’s in the run-up to the election this year. The actions of both presumably put them the president’s black list; the question is would he refuse to appoint them?

On Tuesday, the Czech daily Právo tried to answer the question, citing an anonymous source close to the president who confirmed Mr Zeman would “never” name Mr Zaorálek as foreign minister given the joint role played by the head-of-state and the minister in foreign policy. How seriously is the speculation being taken? Quite: on Tuesday Social Democrat leader Bohuslav Sobotka came out with a pre-emptive statement.

Jiří Dienstbier,  photo: Filip Jandourek
“I am convinced that the Czech Constitution does not give the right for the president to reject a candidate.”

At least not on the basis of political differences; there would have to presumably be serious, objective reasons, for failing to appoint a candidate. Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Mr Zaorálek himself suggested he would be surprised if everything did not go by the book:

“I am assuming that everything will proceed according to the constitution. Mr Sobotka will give the president his proposal and the president will name the government. Because that’s how it is under the constitution; it seems to me that is the only correct way to proceed.”

Miloš Zeman,  photo: Filip Jandourek
The question is whether President Zeman – returning after a month or so long layoff due to injury – will follow set practice. If the president has shown anything as head-of-state it is that he is perfectly willing in many cases to pursue his own course, as he did in hand-picking the country’s interim government or in pushing through new ambassadors. Such steps, though, may have also hurt him: a new poll this week suggested that only 15 percent of the public viewed Mr Zeman’s first nine months in office positively. He may have to consider treading carefully when it comes to naming the next government.