Babis Fails to Form Coalition: ANO Minority Government Likely

Prague, Nov 21 (CTK) – A one-colour minority government of the winning ANO movement headed by billionaire businessman Andrej Babis is in the offing in the Czech Republic one month after the election to the Chamber of Deputies.


Unlike the situation after the previous general election four years ago when the Social Democrats (CSSD), ANO and the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) formed a majority coalition cabinet, it is not sure now whether Babis’s new cabinet will gain sufficient support in the 200-seat lower house to be voted confidence.


At the same time, the new Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of Czech parliament, is being constituted these days. But unlike in 2013, its constituent session is accompanied by more disputes.


For years ago, the chairman of the election-winning CSSD, Bohuslav Sobotka, was forming a new government. During the first month, he agreed on cooperation with ANO and the KDU-CSL. All three parties commanded a comfortable majority of 111 seats.


After the October 20-21 election, President Milos Zeman entrusted Basis to lead talks on a new government. However, Zeman did not demand signatures of a majority of MPs in support of his cabinet from Babis, which Sobotka was obliged to submit.


After a round of talks with other parties, Babis announced that he would try to line up a one-colour cabinet of his ANO with some unaffiliated experts since he had not found a coalition partner.


The parties justify their refusal to cooperate with Babis by his facing charges on suspicion of an EU subsidy fraud. Consequently, they do not want to join a government headed by a prosecuted prime minister.


The previous Chamber of Deputies released Babis and ANO deputy head Jaroslav Faltynek for prosecution in early September. However, as they both were re-elected deputies in October, the police had to suspend their prosecution and ask the new lower house to release them again.


Other parties in parliament refuse to support an ANO minority cabinet. Only the Communists (KSCM) expressed willingness to back the nascent government if certain conditions were met. However, ANO would still need another party to reach a majority in the lower house during the vote of confidence.


ANO won the general election with almost 30 percent of the vote and has 78 seats in the Chamber of Deputies.
It was followed by the Civic Democrats (ODS) with 11.3 percent and 25 seats, the Pirates with 10.8 percent (22 seats), the Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) with 10.6 percent (22 seats), the KSCM with 7.8 percent and the Social Democrats (CSSD) with 7.3 percent, having 15 seats each. The KDU-CSL also entered the lower house with 5.8 percent and ten seats, along with TOP 09 (5.3 percent; 7 seats) and the Mayors and Independents (STAN) with 5.2 percent (6 seats).


The lower house’s constituent session started on Monday, 30 days after the election, which was the last possible date. The MPs took oaths and then they were arguing about the number of members of the Chamber mandate and immunity committee. The first day’s meeting lasted almost three hours.


Like four years ago, there is only one candidate for the lower house chairperson – Radek Vondracek (ANO). If elected, he would replace Jan Hamacek (CSSD). While Hamacek was supported by all deputy groups, now the ODS, KDU-CSL, TOP 09 and STAN, commanding 48 votes together, clearly refused to support Vondracek’s candidacy.


It is not sure yet how many deputy chairpersons the new Chamber of Deputies will have. In 2013, the parties agreed on four, but their number might increase by one this year. The advocates of this step argue that as many as nine parties entered the Chamber of Deputies after the October election, while four years ago, only seven crossed the 5-percent parliamentary threshold.