Wage increases and ministerial merry-go-round: first year of Babiš government assessed

Andrej Babiš, photo: ČTK/Vít Šimánek

On Thursday it will be one year since the appointment of the minority government of ANO and the Social Democrats. Much attention is focused on Andrej Babiš, who police have recommended face criminal prosecution. However, the prime minister's problems don't seem to have dented ANO’s popularity with the party’s base. I asked political scientist Petr Just for his assessment of the cabinet’s first 12 months.

Andrej Babiš,  photo: ČTK/Vít Šimánek
“I have to admit that the main thing that one connects with the government is lasting problems and scandals, usually relating to the prime minister, but also to other ministers as well.

“Unfortunately we have to admit that all these affairs and problems around cabinet members have pretty much dominated the public image of the government.”

There have been frequent changes of minister – I counted five or six. How much is that damaging the government?

“When Mr. Babiš came to the position of prime minister after the 2017 elections he admitted that in the past he had not always been a good, I would say, recruiter of the people who were appointed on behalf of the ANO movement to different positions.

“But the situation hasn’t changed much. There is still quite a weakness in choosing government members or the people who would run ministries, especially those appointed on behalf of ANO.”

This government of ANO and the Social Democrats, supported on key votes by the Communists, has about two and a half years left to run of it term. Do you think it will see out the full term?

“Right now I don’t see any possibility that any of the, let’s say, minor or junior coalition parties, whether it’s the Social Democratic Party or the Communists supporting the government from outside, would withdraw their support.

“For the Communists, it’s quite a pragmatic position right now.

“They are not directly part of the government. They are not directly responsible but still have influence over governance and over the legislation that’s being prepared by the government.

“This is a position they would probably not like to lose.

“With the Social Democratic Party we see that there are some internal clashes and some internal discussions about possible withdrawal.

“But so far the position of those defending remaining in government prevails.”

Petr Just | Photo: Charles University
Given that the government hasn’t been doing so well, going by what you’re saying, why do you think the leading party in the government, ANO, still have around 30 percent support?

“Although I mentioned that the first thing that comes to my mind when evaluating this government is mostly problems around Mr. Babiš and some other ministers, of course the government does have some results.

“And I think those are the results that many people see as positive and advantageous, although we can of course argue over what portion of society they benefit.

“I’m talking mainly about increases in pensions and wages, so of course the groups that felt unappreciated, like pensioners and people working on minimum salaries, now appreciate the steps the government is making in these fields.

“We can discuss [reductions in] train fares and bus fares for students and, again, pensioners, which the government also passed and initiated during its term.

“We see that there are some groups in society that appreciate this and take it as a benefit, as something the government is doing for them.”