Co-founder of Labour Friends of the Czech Republic, Tanweer Ali reports about latest developments in Prague:
Yesterday the executive of Public Affairs, the smallest of the three parties in the governing centre-right coalition, decided to pull its ministers out of the government. This does not yet definitively mean the end of the coalition as there have already been conflicting interpretations of what this actually means. It is possible that the party’s ministers will resign during today’s cabinet meeting, though the decision calls for them to quit by 1 May. The Prime Minister, Petr Necas, reacted by saying that he was not prepared to enter into fresh negotiations and was not afraid of early elections. At this stage it is too early to say how this latest crisis will play out. Public Affairs is the most fractious and opaque of the governing parties and consequently the least predicable, and Necas has previously been known to capitulate to pressure in order to preserve the government. There has been growing tension between Public Affairs and its coalition partners over several issues, including the performance of the party’s minister of education who resigned a few days ago, the restitution of church property, which the party opposes, and corruption allegations. The fall of the government may lead to a number of outcomes, including a prolonged period of interim technocratic government, an early election, or a grand coalition. The Social Democrats are currently leading in the opinion polls. I will update you as events unfold.
All the best,
Update from April 22:
Yesterday evening the three parties in the governing centre-right coalition in the Czech Republic decided to end their cooperation with effect from this coming Friday. Details of the agreement were not made public. This decision follows the disintegration of the smallest of the parties, Public Affairs, after the conviction of its founder for corruption. Public Affairs will now leave the government, but its MPs will continue to vote for measures already agreed. A new breakaway faction of Public Affairs is hoping to join the government, and is currently trying to gain enough parliamentarians to give the government a majority, albeit reduced. The alternative to a majority government would be early elections this summer. Despite tough talk from the Prime Minister, Petr Necas, the two remaining coalition parties are unlikely to want early elections at this stage, as they are trailing in the polls, and it is more probable that every attempt will be made to cobble together a new agreement that can last at least a few more months.
These developments come against a background of increasing concern at the government’s programme of cuts. Saturday saw a massive demonstration, organised by the trade union movement and several NGOs, in the centre of Prague, with estimates that 100,000 people turned up. Demonstrators denounced the government’s policies, called for a clampdown on corruption and called for the resignation of the government and early elections.
All the best,