Sobotka becomes 11th Czech PM since 93…but how long will he last?

Bohuslav Sobotka, Miloš Zeman, photo: CTK

Bohuslav Sobotka was due to become prime minister on Friday, the Czech Republic's 11th since the country became independent in 1993. Mr Sobotka, who leads the leftist Social Democrats, is currently putting the finishing touches to a three-party coalition, but the question on everyone's lips is will this government be any more stable than previous ones?

Bohuslav Sobotka,  Miloš Zeman,  photo: CTK
Czechs have become used to political instability - they've had little else for the past decade. On the face of it Mr Sobotka will command a firm majority in parliament - 111 of 200 seats - but his largest coalition ally, the ANO party, formed by a billionaire businessman just two years ago, is very much an unknown quality. Mr Sobotka too will have to deal with tensions within his own Social Democrats, after an aborted attempt to get rid of him, as well as thinly veiled hostility from the president.

For now his party colleagues sound optimistic that their chairman does have it takes to lead a government and a country. Libor Rouček is a leading Social Democrat MEP.

“I personally do hope that this government will be successful, will be stable. Because it’s exactly what the country needs. Four years of stability, to concentrate on reforms, and move forwards.”

Looking at Mr Sobotka himself, I think even you as his party colleague would agree he’s not a man who rules with an iron fist, he’s not an incredibly strong leader, someone who’s really charismatic. Do you think he has what it takes to be prime minister of this country for four years?

Libor Rouček,  photo: archive of Radio Prague
“I think he does. Yes, it is true, some people say he is not charismatic. But he is hard-working, he is very determined, we could see this in the last couple of months, since the elections, since the crisis within the Social Democratic party. He dealt with the crisis in a very effective manner, sidelined the people who tried to overthrow him. And if we look at the formation of the government, if we look at the way he deals with the president, he is excellent, very effective work. What the country needs is a hard-working, efficient, effective person. And I’m sure Mr Sobotka will be that person.”

But some commentators are less convinced. Petr Just is a lecturer in political science at Prague's Metropolitan University.

“Usually the main problem which appears to be a coalition breaker are the internal affairs of a coalition party. It’s not so much the interaction between the coalition parties, it’s usually the problems within the political party. So actually we can never rule out the situation that a political crisis, political instability will appear, even if we have a government which is backed by 111 members of parliament.”

Bohuslav Sobotka,  photo: CTK
So clearly some grounds for scepticism. And with the past elected government falling in a spectacular sex, spying and corruption scandal, and President Zeman's installation of an interim cabinet against the wishes of parliament, one can perhaps forgive Czech voters for their rather jaded view of politics.