What is the legacy of the Sobotka government?

Bohuslav Sobotka, photo: CTK

The government of the Social Democrats, ANO, and the Christian Democrats, led by Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, which tendered its resignation on Wednesday, was not without its successes over the last four years, overseeing a growing economy. Its success did not help the senior Social Democrats, however, the biggest casualty in the October election, but ANO.

Bohuslav Sobotka,  photo: CTK
I discussed the outgoing government and its legacy with political analyst Jiří Pehe:

“I think that it was a pretty successful government on two levels: one was, simply that it survived the full four years which is not very common for Czech governments since 1993 and also it was a government which achieved some very good economic results and a period of very low unemployment. Had it not been for in-fighting between ANO and the Social Democrats I think that the government would be remembered in a more positive light.”

The Social Democrats pushed for bumps in the minimum wage, for better teacher wages, but reaped almost no rewards when it came to the election. What happened? Was it simply that Andrej Babiš and ANO were better at selling it as their own success?

“I think that Andrej Babiš was able to portray himself as the main person behind the success of the government, even when it was the Social Democrats who were pushing some of the reforms and for positive changes. The public saw it as his success and I think that Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka was at times was not as strong as he should have been. He waited a year to try and expel Mr Babiš from the government even after the latter admitted he had lied about the Stork’s Nest affair. He should have acted immediately and not waited a year.”

Andrej Babiš,  Miloš Zeman | Photo: Filip Jandourek,  Czech Radio
It will also be a while before viewers forget the image of the president waving his cane in Mr Sobotka’s face, unprecedented behaviour really by a head of state in dealings with a prime minister, and it has never been a secret that Mr Zeman was far more in ANO’s corner…

“Absolutely I think that that particular incident – the president waving the cane in the prime minister’s face – sums up much of why things went wrong and why the Social Democrats didn’t reap more rewards or success for their role in the government. The prime minister wasn’t always as strong as he should have been. He was seen as rather weak despite presiding over a fairly successful government, and that may have contributed to the downfall of the Social Democrats.”