Jan Macháček

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Czech Business Weekly

New Cabinet may intimidate Klaus

08. 01. 2007
Even though President Václav Klaus is pushing Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek to change the proposed government, it’s very probable that Klaus will have to accept the offered proposal and name the new government very soon.

Even the legal experts who are completely loyal to Klaus can’t reasonably defend his idiosyncratic preferences for changes in the Cabinet proposal. The Constitution is perfectly clear on the matter: The president should promptly name the government that’s proposed. As law professor and former constitutional justice Vojtěch Cepl likes to point out, in this particular paragraph of the Constitution, the president’s role is very clearly outlined and is akin to that of a rubber-stamping notary.

Klaus opposes two things about the government. One matter is that he opposes the exact composition of the coalition parties. He prefers a grand coalition of the Social Democrats (ČSSD) with his own party of preference, the Civic Democrats (ODS). An additional personal motive for the two-party coalition is that it would make his re-election in one year to a second presidential term much easier to win.

Besides that, Klaus complained that he doesn’t like some of the specific names proposed for Cabinet posts. Particularly, he was highly critical of Senator Karel Schwarzenberg, who was nominated for the post of minister of foreign affairs by the smaller coalition partner, the Green Party (SZ). Among other warnings Klaus has issued against this internationally respected duke of diplomacy is his presence in filling the role may threaten fragile Czech-Austrian relations, with Klaus claiming that Schwarzenberg is citizen of both nations and is clearly a conflict of interest for a Czech foreign relations minister. But Schwarzenber isn’t, and has never been, a citizen of Austriaalthough his family does own some property there. Beside, Czech citizenship, Schwarzenberg is also a Swiss citizen.

Schwarzenberg is a very respected and experienced statesman and, in reality, Klaus dislikes two things about him that he can’t actually admit. Klaus is afraid that Schwarzenberg’s well-cultivated and large diplomatic image, one that is respected abroad as well as at home, could overshadow Klaus’ own very similar image, that of being a wise and professorial statesman. Also, other sharp conflicts can obviously arise from the philosophical polarity between Europhobic nationalism and cosmopolitan liberalism.

The president also seems to be considering another method to quickly liquidate the current proposed government: He believes his own supporters and hidden followers within the ODS will act like party dissidents and walk out of the room during the crucial vote of confidence. But another recent and growing complication for Toplánek is the ongoing widespread rebellion within the ODS itself.

After the June elections, Topolánek tried, all the way until August, to form a coalition government with Greens and Christian Democrats (KDU-ČSL), although talks were constantly stalled by fights with ODS members demanding much better conditions and posts than its weaker coalition parties; the plan disintegrated, and they finally gave it up completely – which should have, in effect, burned the bridge for any possible future ČSSD cooperation. Strangely, ČSSD head Jiří Paroubek just visited Klaus with his “new” plans for a simpler bridge that will create a grand coalition. Klaus was quite happy to see those plans since it included the solid base for upcoming presidential elections.

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