The End of Act 1

The Czech government of PM Stanislav Gross survived its vote of no confidence today thanks to the tacit support of the unreformed Communists, whose 44 members abstained from voting, leaving the opposition Civic Democrats (ODS) and Christian Democrats (KDU-ÄŒSL) without enough votes to bring it down.

While pronouncements early in the day predicted that a minority government led by Gross would continue, Czech President Václav Klaus issued the following proclamation saying he’d require Gross to submit his new cabinet to a confidence vote. The translation is mine:

Position of the President of the Czech Republic after the vote of no confidence in the government on 1 April 2005

The result of the vote of no confidence in the government, as well as today’s dramatic discussion in the Chamber of Deputies, are only additional phases in the current government crisis, not its conclusion. This is why I perceive the appearances of individual party leaders and the vote not as a solution to the now three-month-old crisis situation, but as its further sharpening.

I expected that today – regardless of how the vote of no confidence ended – I would begin meetings with political parties, but after today’s appearances by their representatives on the Parliament floor, I think I can say that not only I now know their opinions and positions, but the entire Czech public as well.

I do not consider today’s Parliament vote as a replacement for the 101 signatures I used as the basis for entrusting Stanislav Gross with forming a government last year, nor is it – an absolute necessity in the new situation – a confirmation of a majority mandate for the dissolution of Gross’ weakened government.

I announce in this way, that before I accept the resignation and eventual naming of new ministers, I call on the Prime Minister to publicly promise that he will appear with a new, reformed government before Parliament with a request for confidence and with that, a confirmation of their mandate.

Gross, however, had a different opinion, and said Klaus had overstepped his constitutional powers.

If Gross decides to really press his case and takes it to the Constitutional Court, it could be 2017 before the case is decided…

3 thoughts on “The End of Act 1

  1. I think the real news here is that the fundamentals of the Czech political system have changed. No matter how long or with whose support the Social Democrats stay in power, they no longer play leading roles. They’ve been relegated to supporting cast. It’s an odd situation considering they’ll still in power and are likely to remain there for the time being.

    Since the revolution, Czech politics have basically been a contest between ODS on the right and the Social Democrats on the right, with various centrist factions (usually the Christian Democrats, but also the Freedom Union-DEU and other assorted Havelites) playing kingmakers, all of them banded together with the implicit (and sometimes explicit) goal of keeping the Commies from within an arm’s length of power.

    Now the Social Democrats are merely pawns in a right-left contest between ODS and the Commies. This is bad news overall, because I think the country really needs a healthy political left to act as a counterweight to an overly robust ODS. And the KSCM are not just Communists, they’re Bolsheviks.

    Taking the long view, it seems to me the situation is unstable and something’s gotta crack sooner or later. Question is, who’s going to be the first major politician stand up and say, “Sorry guys, I wish it weren’t so, but we’ve fucked up royally, and now we have no choice but to start talking to the Communists.”

  2. Great observations, Scott.

    I’d actually say that what is underway may be even deeper; it’s a conflict between cult-of-personality politics and cult-of-system politics. Gross is the latest embodiment of something endemic in Czech politics: the leader who never takes responsibility. The alternative, though, is that of the EU (or in business, the cult of ISO certification), which place systems above all.

    If Gross were to step down himself, his party would be injured but not destroyed. But he’s made the mistake of confusing himself with his party, which now threatens to destroy both.

    Gross isn’t the only one who’s made this mistake – it’s been near-impossible for the ODS to move out of Klaus’ shadow – but at some point the bigwigs will have to come to the realization that it’s in their long-term interest to create working systems, as opposed to strong individuals.

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