Jan Macháček


Výsledky hledání

Czech Business Weekly

Hung Parliament puts 1996 on the horizon

12. 06. 2006
Although a few crazy ideas were floated after election results produced a hung Parliament, Czech politicians have matured somewhat in regard to acting within the framework of the Constitution.

First came the notion that victorious Civic Democrat (ODS) leader Mirek Topolánek’s future government could rule without winning a confidence vote, because a no confidence vote was also impossible with the 100–100 spilt in the lower house. Next the right wing got the idea that the Senate, where ODS and its preferred coalition partner, the Christian Democrats (KDU-ČSL), have a majority, could push its agenda through that upper house. The Chamber of Deputies needs 101 votes to override the Senate, you see, and the left-wing – Prime Minister Jiří Paroubek’s Social Democrats (ČSSD) and the Communists (KSČM) – falls short.

Thank God these ideas were quickly abandoned, as the world would soon come to see the country as a banana republic. Of course, much depends on who will be named chairman and vice chairmen of the Parliament, and at what cost. These positions should be filled before the new deputies hold their first session, set for the last week of June. If a ČSSD deputy (or Paroubek) is made chairman there are two likely power-sharing scenarios.

In the 1996 elections, an ODS-led coalition won 99 seats, and ČSSD Chairman Miloš Zeman led his MPs out of the voting hall to enable a minority government to form, but made no promise of further cooperation. During a vote on the budget, the ODS won over ČSSD MP Tomáš Teplík and later also disgruntled ČSSD MP Josef Wagner, who was kicked out of the party. The government lasted a year and a half.

Another such walk-out could be in the works, but Topolánek’s dream of becoming a big reformer like Slovak PM Mikuláš Dzurinda (a successful champion of the flat tax) or Spain’s José Maa Aznar is unlikely to come true; no truly controversial legislation will pass. Governing without legislating doesn’t make much sense, and it would be easy for the opposition to portray Topolánek’s coalition as impotent and incompetent, limited to privatizing state-controlled assets, and traveling abroad for photo opportunities to sign international treaties. The ČSSD would grow more popular and would try at the most suitable moment to engineer early elections.

The other scenario, installing a ČSSD MP (probably Paroubek) as chairman opens the way for a grand coalition with (or without) Topolánek as prime minister. This would bring some positive developments: the ODS would be forced to abandon the idea of a flat tax, but still be able to simplify the tax system; and both the ČSSD and ODS would give ground on the Labor Code. With all sharing responsibility, there’s also a chance they’d work on pension reform or nonideological issues related to the workings of democratic institutions and the market economy, such as the judicial system and land registers.

In Germany, a grand coalition is workable because the judiciary and police forces are truly independent as is the strong, private media. But in this country, abuse of power is still pervasive, and a grand coalition would mean an end to high-level criminal investigations into fraud and corruption, whose white-collar perpetrators can always be linked to a political figure.

Not very good news, then; but at least the Constitution will be followed and respected. That’s the first step toward things getting better.

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