Talks on caretaker cabinet back on track after hitting the rocks

Jan Fischer, photo: CTK

A caretaker cabinet to tide the Czech Republic to early elections is supposed to be formally appointed on Friday, but there’s still no agreement on who will be in it. Last week interim Prime Minister Jan Fischer said he was ‘unconvinced’ by several candidates nominated by the Green Party, Civic Democrats and Social Democrats, and suggested a few ministers of his own. Mr Fischer’s suggestions came as a shock to deputies in the Czech lower house, who threatened to withdraw their support for the caretaker cabinet.

Jan Fischer, photo: CTK
Ever since the fall of the government in March, negotiations have been underway to select a non-partisan cabinet of experts to tide the country over to early elections in October.

Jan Fischer was nominated as head of this interim government just under one month ago on April 9. His cabinet was supposed to be made up of eight ministers selected by the Social Democrats, seven by the Civic Democrats and two by the Green Party. Since his appointment, Mr Fischer has been interviewing candidates put forward for the posts.

But on Friday, exactly a week before the new cabinet was set to be sworn in, Mr Fischer said he remained ‘unconvinced’ by three of the nominations in particular and put forward his own candidates for several ministerial posts.

Jiří Paroubek (left) and Mirek Topolánek (right), photo: CTK
Mr Fischer’s proposals were not well received. His caretaker government will have to win a confidence vote in parliament after being appointed, and outgoing Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek suggested that, in the form Mr Fischer envisaged it, the caretaker cabinet would do no such thing. Head of the Green Party Martin Bursík said that as the new prime minister’s list of nominations did not have the support of politicians it ‘had no value’. And over the weekend, the head of the opposition Social Democrats Jiří Paroubek dismissed Jan Fischer’s ideas as ‘betraying his political inexperience’.

Mr Fischer said on Friday that he was still open to negotiation, and has subsequently withdrawn his list of candidates, but he has insisted that a solution be found by Friday, and that the appointment of a new government is not delayed. With several gaping holes still in Mr Fischer’s cabinet, it looks like a lot will have to be done in the next couple of days.