Turnover of ministers in Nečas cabinet unprecedented

Alexandr Vondra, Petr Nečas, photo: CTK

Wednesday’s announcement that Alexandr Vondra is giving up the defence portfolio means that, since the appointment of Petr Nečas’s government in July 2010, 12 ministers have now left the cabinet. Indeed, that’s the highest number of departures from one front bench since the foundation of the Czech Republic. So why is the turnover in the Nečas cabinet so high? And what can we expect next?

Alexandr Vondra,  photo: CTK
Alexandr Vondra – who will officially step down next week – was the last of the original five ministers from Petr Nečas’s party the Civic Democrats left in the prime minister’s government, which was appointed less than two and a half years ago.

Seven ministers from the other coalition parties have also exited the cabinet since July 2010, making a dozen in total – and the highest number of front bench changes of any Czech cabinet ever.

When first appointed, the 14-member cabinet pledged to get tough on graft. A number of ministers have gone after being implicated in just that – and Mr. Nečas says the relatively high turnover actually sends a positive signal to voters.

“It’s unlike in the case of previous governments or government members, when people held on to government seats in such a way as to create the impression that their backs were stuck to the seat in question.”

Journalist and commentator Jindřich Šídlo says there is truth in this. But there’s more to the story.

Petr Nečas,  photo: CTK
“Mr. Nečas is right. But the other thing is it was his own choice. He was made to change all his own ministers, and some of them, even at the moment when they entered the government, there were rumours surrounding them about possible problems. And some of the changes – I’m talking about Mr. Bendl instead of Mr. Fuksa [at Agriculture] and mainly Mr. Blažek who replaced Mr. Pospíšil [at Justice] this June – they were made by Mr. Nečas because of the situation inside his party.”

When it was elected, the Nečas government had the strongest majority ever seen in the lower house, but – largely due to the fragmentation of one coalition party – that majority has now dwindled to a vote or two.

However, for all its tribulations and ministerial musical chairs, the government has achieved some key planks of its programme, including various economic reforms and church restitution.

So while it may now appear to be a lame duck, Jindřich Šídlo does expect it to last the full four years.

Jindřich Šídlo,  photo: Filip Jandourek
“I think that this government has no more ambitions to do something important, to change Czech society. The only ambition of the government is just to survive and to finish their term. Which will probably mean the end of the political careers of many members of this coalition and probably a heavy election loss for the Civic Democrats in May or July 2014.”

In the meantime, the prime minister should soon announce who will take over the currently vacant defence and transport portfolios, with another cabinet reshuffle also expected.