Jan Macháček


Výsledky hledání

Czech Business Weekly

New government, old faces, same story

11. 09. 2006
Three months after the June 2–3 parliamentary elections a new government was finally installed. There’s a mix of old guards and new talents and hopes. Those who want to dismiss the 15-member Cabinet of Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek (Civic Democrat, ODS) will certainly find easy arguments.

Among the old faces are ODS people like Vlastimil Tlustý (finance), Ivan Langer (interior and informatics), Petr Nečas (labor and social affairs) and Martin ˘Ríman (industry and trade) — all backed by former party chairman and current President Václav Klaus when the ODS was disintegrating in late 1997.

Their total support for Klaus and his complete denial of any wrongdoings as far as ODS finances were concerned, propelled them to the highest ranks of the party. After losing to the Social Democrats (ČSSD) in the 1998 elections, they also became the chief proponents of the so-called opposition agreement between the rival parties, backing up Miloš Zeman’s government in exchange for influential posts.

Tlustý, for example, became the chairman of state bail-out agency ČKA, the institution that liquidates bad loans inherited from privatized banks, while Langer conducted behind-the-scenes deals with then Minister of the Interior Stanislav Gross (ČSSD).

Since 1991, Tlustý has been very close to important privatization cases, and especially close to Nomura and so, since 2000, the fiercest critic of the takeover of the failed IPB bank by ČSOB.

The main cloud hanging over Langer is his visit to Mount Kilimanjaro with former policeman turned businessman Vratislav Kutal, who was convicted of large-scale tax fraud and murder. Langer says he wasn’t aware of Kutal’s activities and anyway there were many more people along for the Africa trip.

But the Cabinet also includes some unsullied figures, like former dissident Alexandr Vondra (unaffiliated, foreign affairs), a former adviser to Václav Havel with a solid reputation abroad — a rarity among Czech politicians (see profile, page 11). Petr Gandalovič (regional development) is also an experienced diplomat and among the few ODS people who seem to value creating a civil society.

However, Topolánek’s minority government stands little chance of passing a confidence vote, let alone getting any legislation approved before the inevitable early elections. That’s a greater obstacle for portfolios like Nečas’ — a right-wing reformer can’t do much in the sphere of social affairs without legislative support.

Meanwhile, if the main point of Topolánek’s government is to lead the country toward new elections he should let citizens know the exact mechanisms that will trigger them; the Constitution doesn’t make it easy. The simplest way is to go through three empty attempts at forming governments, which won’t win the approval of the lower house of Parliament — in which case, these ministers shouldn’t get too comfortable.

A grand coalition that would mainly serve to achieve some agreement on early elections is looking like the best option to end the stalemate as well as the permanent state of negative campaigning that is damaging to the country.

Acting together, the ODS and ČSSD could fulfill the Maastricht criteria toward adopting the euro, but that won’t happen under a minority government and legislative freeze. Meanwhile, the politicians are fulfilling their pledge to voters not to form an alliance and are neglecting our international obligations. Which is better?

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