Social Democrats remove last hurdle on road to new government

Jan Hamáček A Roman Onderka  (ČSSD), foto: FB ČSSD

After eight months of stalemate the Czech Republic looks set to get a new government capable of winning a confidence vote in the lower house. The Social Democrats have endorsed a coalition agreement on forming a minority government with the ANO party which would rely on support from the Communists.

Social Democrat leader Jan Hamáček, deputy chairman Roman Onderka, photo: official Facebook page of ČSSD
After months of negotiations and numerous rejections, prime minister designate Andrej Babiš appears to have found allies willing to join him in power. The emerging minority government of his ANO party and the Social Democrats will have 93 seats in the 200-strong lower house, meaning that it will have to rely on support from the Communist Party, which has promised to tolerate it in return for numerous concessions.

For the Social Democrats, who did poorly in last October’s general elections, this is a chance to participate in government, and they have pushed their advantage to the limit gaining five ministerial portfolios in the new cabinet. However, the decision to enter into government with ANO was not an easy one and some members vehemently opposed it – either because they don’t like the idea of entering into a coalition led by a politician accused of EU subsidy fraud or because they don’t want to have to rely on the Communist Party for support.

Social Democrat Senator Alena Gajdušková says she will respect the party’s decision with a heavy heart.

“I have said from the start that I do not consider this a wise move. There are many things that are problematic, but as they say Vox populi, vox Dei (the voice of the people is the voice of God).”

The party’s former foreign minister, Lubomír Zaorálek says he fears the coalition may not be viable.

“We do not have a majority coalition. The coalition deal is between two parties who do not have 101 seats together, so the question is how well this set-up will function.”

So how stable will the new government be? A question for political scientist Jiří Pehe:

Andrej Babiš, Miloš Zeman, photo: ČTK/Šimánek Vít
“I think this coalition government will be as stable as is the support of the Communist Party and President Zeman, because in actual fact this is not a government of two parties, but four parties – that is ANO, the Social Democrats, the Communists who will tolerate it, and then, of course, President Zeman who has a great deal of influence over the Communist Party and who has been able to use his influence over Andrej Babiš, as acting prime minister, to put his own people in the government. It now looks like there will be at least three or four ministers who will actually be Zeman’s appointees. So the government will be as stable as is the support of President Zeman and also of the Communist Party.”

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš is upbeat about his new government and clearly eager to get down to business. On Sunday he will present President Zeman with the new cabinet line-up and on July 11th he plans to ask the lower house for a vote on confidence.