Why is the Czech government in crisis and will it collapse?

Written by on July 29, 2019

The Czech government remains stuck in a crisis that has already rumbled on for two months, even after a junior coalition partner backed down on an ultimatum that threatened a collapse by the end of the month.

The move by the Social Democrats (CSSD) on Thursday averted the immediate threat to the minority coalition led by Prime Minister Andrej Babis’s populist Ano party. The CSSD had threatened to leave the government unless President Milos Zeman confirmed its new nominee for culture minister by July 31, a demand the head of state rejected on Wednesday.

The CSSD first requested Antonin Stanek be replaced by Michal Smarda in May. Leader and Deputy Prime Minister Jan Hamacek insists there is no reason for the party to remain in the government if it cannot freely nominate its five ministers. 

Under the constitution, the president must sign off on cabinet appointments. While Zeman said on July 23 that he will finally dismiss Stanek on July 31, he added that he will not appoint a new minister until mid-August.

That raised speculation of imminent government collapse, but the CCSD’s Hamacek – facing internal party splits and weakened public support – told a press briefing that he would not enforce his deadline.

“We will wait for the president’s decision,” spokeswoman Barbora Kalatova told Al Jazeera. “We hope that the situation will be resolved by the end of August.”

Known for his links to Russia and China, as well as outrageous rhetoric targeting Islam, Roma and liberal values, Zeman has sought to expand the largely-ceremonial powers of his post since winning the Czech Republic’s first-ever direct presidential election in 2014.

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