Will Christian Democrats scupper coalition deal?

Andrej Babiš, Bohuslav Sobotka, Pavel Bělobrádek, photo: CTK

The emerging government coalition between the Social Democrats, ANO and the Christian Democrats officially presented their policy programme on Friday outlining broad aims such as raising the country’s minimum wage and boosting the economy. But the deal could yet go south: it has emerged that the Christian Democrats are far from happy ahead of the next round of negotiations on ministerial posts. The offer of only two ministries, they warn, will not be enough.

Pavel Bělobrádek,  photo: CTK
Nobody said negotiations on the new government would be easy and over the next few day reaching a deal could grow more complicated yet. Despite progress made, namely on policy issues, the Christian Democrats and their leader Pavel Bělobradek have balked at the suggestion they should head only two ministries in the new cabinet. Neither of the positions offered is what they have sought. Instead of the Agriculture Ministry, they have been left with the ministries of culture and health.

A headline splashed across the daily Mladá fronta Dnes on Friday quoted Mr Bělobradek as saying “We’re nobody’s fool”, in response, making clear his party wouldn’t be treated like “idiots”. Currently in the U.S. on a working visit, Mr Bělobradek elaborated in a phone interview:

“If we are to be deprived of all posts that are a priority for us... if we hold no crucial ministerial positions or none of the economic ministries, there is a possibility we won’t be in the next government.”

Andrej Babiš,  photo: CTK
It is lost on no one that without the Christian Democrats, the Social Democrats and ANO – the two top finishers in the recent election – would fall short of a majority, holding just ninety-seven seats in the 200-member lower house. And that could set everyone back to Step 1, leaving the future of the 50-page coalition agreement up in the air.

But so far, the Christian Democrats’ “warning shot” does not seem to have been heeded. ANO party leader Andrej Babiš slammed the Christian Democrats, questioning their viability as a partner for venting in the media even before the deal is signed, rather than discussing issues face to face.

“We think that the Christian Democrats have a mandate to hold two ministries, I don’t see how it leaves them in a worse position. It’s proportional to the number of votes they received and if they head, for example, the Health Ministry, that is a huge job where they can show what they are made of. I don’t see any problem.”

Bohuslav Sobotka,  photo: CTK
According to a proposal set-out by likely prime minister, Bohuslav Sobotka, the Social Democrats in the next cabinet would hold eight posts, ANO seven, and the Christian Democrats, two. But by all appearances now, someone will have to sweeten the deal or budge – otherwise the tentative coalition could soon fall apart.