Rusnok government sworn in

Photo: CTK

The country’s new caretaker cabinet was sworn in at Prague Castle on Wednesday, two weeks after economist Jiří Rusnok was named to head it. As the new prime minister had pledged, 14 days was all it took to put together a government from scratch. Now it will face its first test – winning a confidence vote in the lower house.

Photo: CTK
To no small degree the ceremony at Prague Castle on Wednesday was a triumph for the country’s President Miloš Zeman: against strong opposition from the parties in the lower house weeks ago, he blazed his own trail, naming his own candidate Jiří Rusnok prime minister designate, bypassing the centre-right coalition nominee Miroslava Němcová.

The process is now complete: on Wednesday the new government – with 15 members – was sworn in. At the ceremony, the new ministers received congratulations from President Zeman who didn’t mince words, giving the following recommendation:

“Don’t let criticism from the media or envious idiots who have themselves never amounted to anything deter you from your job. Try and ensure that you are successful in the task ahead.”

Jiří Rusnok,  Miloš Zeman,  photo: CTK
Mr Zeman outlined that while the government would have to tackle a slew of issues from day one, its top priority, in his view, would be to prevent political entities from trying to put pressure on those investigating criminal cases that had led to the fall of the previous government. Some must have done an about face, not least because the new prime minister recently outlined priority number one as something else entirely: the need to put together a solid state budget for 2014.

Political analyst Jan Bureš:

“In my opinion the president did not outline the most pressing issue, but it is something we will hear more about in the coming months. It is interesting that the president’s speech focussed on the fight against corruption and cast him as the last defence. At the same time, he didn’t say how long he felt the caretaker government would remain in power.”

As it stands, that remains the big unanswered question: as of Wednesday Prime Minister Jiří Rusnok has 30 days to ask for a confidence vote and it is far from clear the technocrat government will get enough support. Two weeks ago, opposition from most of the parties in the lower house was clear cut, and failure seemed all but a certainty. Now, the toughest opposition, some sources suggest, may have crumbled somewhat as parties on both sides of the political spectrum weigh the pros and cons of leaving the technocrat government in power.

Miroslava Němcová,  photo: CTK
This much remains true: if the centre-right parties pull together, they can probably still gather a slim majority in the Chamber of Deputies, which would mean the government’s fall. No one missed the significance of the speaker of the Chamber of Deputies Miroslava Němcová – the centre-right’s candidate for prime minister – walking out after Wednesday’s ceremony. Others shared polite words or congratulations over glasses of champagne, but she left immediately, sending a message that at least one top politician is sticking to her guns.