Tension within ruling coalition will mount, says commentator Jiří Pehe

Václav Klaus, Petr Nečas, finance minister Miroslav Kalousek, photo: CTK

The key to the survival of the Czech coalition government was a deal between the coalition parties brokered by President Václav Klaus at Prague Castle. No details of the last-minute accord have been released but it apparently involves the demise of the police president, Oldřich Martinů, which has already materialized, as well as the reinstatement of whistleblower, Libor Michálek, to the State Environment Fund, where the corruption scandal broke out. Whatever the details, the agreement was enough for the MPs of the junior coalition party, Public Affairs, to support the government in Tuesday’s vote of no confidence. But commentator Jiří Pehe believes the issues that have come to light in the recent cabinet crisis have not been settled, and will emerge again.

Václav Klaus, Petr Nečas, finance minister Miroslav Kalousek, photo: CTK
“The coalition seems to have real problems with communication, the three parties do not see eye-to-eye, and I think it’s just a matter of time before another conflict surfaces within the coalition. It will be very difficult for the coalition to go ahead with the planned reforms because they will create social tension, and given the tension within the coalition, I think it may have a destructive effect on the coalition.

“As far as the other issue – the secret deal that coalition leaders reached with the president – we don’t know what the content of the deal is. At this point, we only know that the police president will be replaced. But what’s more worrying about the deal is that it has a slightly extra-constitutional character in that the president, who has no executive power, has basically taken over the future of the ruling coalition, and in fact in some ways took over the role that should be played by the prime minister. That’s something we have not seen in Czech democracy over the last 20 years.”

Czech government, Václav Klaus, photo: CTK
Do you think we’ll see more of this, of President Václav Klaus getting involved in this level of politics?

“We will see more of this if the coalition continues – the weaker the coalition, the stronger the president. It’s now clear that the president’s role has become so distinct only due to the internal weakness of the coalition and the fact that its leaders are deadlocked over a variety of issues. In the end, they needed a broker and the president has become just that. This gives him what I called an extra-constitutional role in Czech government.”

Before the deal was reached, the two sides – the Civic Democrats with Prime Minister Nečas on the one hand, and the Public Affairs party with Interior Minister Radek John on the other – had very different views of what should happen. But it seems that in the end that Prime Minister Petr Nečas complied with all the demands of Public Affairs…

“Well, it seems so. It does look like that under pressure from the president, Prime Minister Nečas went along with the demands of the Public Affairs party. Certainly the most important demand raised by Public Affairs was replacement of the police president, and this is what’s happening.

Oldřich Martinů, photo: CTK
“At the same time, we don’t know whether this was accompanied by an agreement that for instance Interior Minister, and Public Affairs party chair, Radek John, would also quit his position. We don’t know if the deal involved the future of the famous whistleblower Libor Michálek who set the current scandal in motion. So we don’t know what the details of the deal are but it seems to me that if indeed Mr Nečas made concessions on all fronts, having agreed to replace the police president and at the same time did not get a pledge from his coalition partners to replace Mr John, and maybe even agreed to reinstate Mr Michálek, then Mr Nečas’ position within the Civic Democrat party will be extremely weak, and he will have to face the consequences.”