Jan Macháček


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Czech Business Weekly

Three months of Stanislav Gross

08. 11. 2004
While Americans were getting ready to vote last Tuesday, Czech Prime Minister Stanislav Gross was celebrating his first 100 days in office.

The traditional 100-day reprieve from criticism was not respected in his case — Gross has been consistently attacked by political opponents, journalists, civic activists and others. Only those in his party — apart from Miloš Zeman — have been silent.

There are two main differences between the coalition government of Vladimír Špidla and Gross’ coalition government. The first is that the triumvirate of hard-to-understand intellectuals — Špidla, Cyril Svoboda and Petr Mareš — was exchanged for a triumvirate of pragmatists such as Gross, Miroslav Kalousek and Pavel Němec. The new men at the top are not intellectuals and are, essentially, not interested in ideology. And this, paradoxically, helps them better express the simple things that need to be done.

Before any discussion of the pluses and minuses of Stanislav “Baby Face” Gross, one must emphasize that he has succeeded in reintroducing discipline within his own Social Democratic party. But before giving Gross any credit for the shift we should consider how he renewed this party discipline. Is it because he, as a former minister of the interior, has something on all his potential political opponents? Or is it because Špidla — unlike Gross — generally opposed the worst built-in special interests and pressure groups? Or is it simply because Gross is so popular — and his MPs are obedient because he is such a good marketing asset for the party? It might be a mixture of all of these.



There are some clear pluses to Gross’ governance. First, there are more economists within or on the sidelines of the government. Deputy Prime Minister Martin Jahn was a smart choice — he can remind Social Democrats that there is a real world out there that is based in reality and not on some old-fashioned ideology. And he can win arguments with the more economically illiterate members of the Cabinet.

Naming Jan Mládek to be a super adviser was also a good choice. Mládek is the only well-educated economist among social democrat MPs. The choice of a nonpartisan former dissident, František Bublan, to head the Ministry of Interior was also wise.

And Gross is able to push President Václav Klaus back to where he constitutionally belongs. Gross doesn’t allow Klaus to dictate the political agenda.



The biggest minus of Gross’ government was the choice of Milada Emmerová as health minister. She is the worst minister this country has ever had. Emmerová goes against anything rational. She doesn’t want to provide patients and citizens with information; she disrespects the recommendations of the World Bank; she both wants and doesn’t want to nationalize health care; and she is proud of having been a member of the Communist Party.

Gross pushed for (or, more precisely, did not back down on) the dramatic increase of wages for police and firemen. The economy is growing faster than expected, but the government is not using the extra revenue to lower the country’s overall indebtedness.

Gross is also friends with a lot of distasteful people. He might think this will help him steal some support from the Communists, but this is ridiculous. And that is the dirty world of pragmatic Czech politics.

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