Communists Ride Roughshod Over ANOČTK
Prague, June 18 (CTK) – The Czech Communist Party’s (KSCM) influence on ANO leader Andrej Babis and his nascent cabinet has been growing, with the KSCM forcing Babis into a number of concessions, most recently in health care, writes weekly Tyden out today.
Since the 1990s, Czech politicians have pondered on introducing voluntary health insurance, additional to the compulsory system, that would make patients eligible for special treatment such as a lighter plaster or better lenses or endoprosthesis. Also eyeing the plan, Babis’s nascent cabinet embedded it in its draft policy statement, but it was forced to delete it in compliance with the KSCM’s demand, Tyden writes.
The Communists, who are supposed to keep Babis’s minority cabinet of ANO and the Social Democrats (CSSD) afloat, do not conceal that the deletion means a concession to them on the part of Babis.
The KSCM’s shadow health minister Sona Markova said the KSCM is resolutely against any forms of patients’ healthcare fees or commercial insurance. “It is inadmissible for patients’ financial situation to decide on the quality of the care provided for them,” Markova has told the KSCM’s newspaper Halo noviny.
Adam Vojtech, who is health minister in Babis’s outgoing cabinet, still wants the debate on the plan to continue. However, he can hardly achieve its implementation within four years, as originally envisaged. He is even not sure of joining the new cabinet. On the one hand, he is a favourite of Babis, but on the other, his name figures on the KSCM’s black list, Tyden writes.
The KSCM has nipped the commercial health insurance idea in the bud though it has been supported by the health insurers’ association and the hospitals’ association, which consider it a potential new source to support the under financed health sector.
The KSCM’s further successful demand is the plan to tax the financial compensation churches are to receive within church restitution. The KSCM has had the plan smoothly embedded in the cabinet’s draft policy statement, also because ANO and its probable new partner CSSD are not opposed to it and have already supported the KSCM-proposed bill on the taxation in the first reading in parliament, Tyden writes.
Based on the church restitution law from 2013, 16 churches are gradually to receive 59 billion crowns, about two billion a year, for the property that cannot be returned to them. The proposed additional tax would reduce the sum by 380 million crowns a year and strip the churches of 11 billion crowns.
“Andrej Babis never challenged the church restitution or the compensation sum. Unfortunately, he has succumbed to the KSCM’s extortion now,” former culture minister Daniel Herman (Christian Democrats, KDU-CSL), who prepared the church restitution bill in the early 2010s, has tweeted.
Church dignitaries have said they would turn to the Constitutional Court (US) if the restitution conditions were curtailed.
The KSCM has also resolutely stood up against a memorandum the then CSSD-controlled Industry and Trade Ministry signed last year with an Australian company on potential lithium mining in northwest Bohemia. The scandal that broke out over the affair weakened the CSSD and helped ANO ahead of the October 2017 general election. However, Tomas Huner, the Industry Minister in Babis’s first cabinet, angered the KSCM by wanting to preserve the memorandum. The KSCM threatened not to support Babis’s second cabinet. As a result, the lithium memorandum has had to disappear, Tyden writes.
Another demand the KSCM has pushed through is the introduction of the alimonies the state should temporarily pay for children whose parent failed to do so. ANO was originally against the measure but finally, it let two relevant bills, one proposed by the CSSD and one by the KSCM, sail through the first reading in parliament.
The KSCM’s crusade against Czech soldiers’ participation in foreign missions has failed at first sight. Nevertheless, the KSCM actually threatened not to back the cabinet if its policy statement outlines a reinforcement of Czech missions in selected regions.
“I have understood that the KSCM has no problem with raising the number of Czech soldiers in Iraq, Mali and Afghanistan. The KSCM did not want their reinforcement in the Baltics, and there will be no reinforcement in the Baltic. I therefore consider the issue settled,” Babis has said on radio.
In view of its weak result in the October 2017 elections, the KSCM should have maximally 17 seats in various lower house bodies, but it has almost 30 of them, three times more than its number of deputies (15 in the 200-seat Chamber of Deputies), Tyden writes, citing political analyst Lukas Hajek.
Regarding the party’s past before 1989, it is paradoxical that Communist Leo Luzar has become head of the lower house’s sub-committee for freedom of speech and media.
The KSCM also seeks representation on supervisory boards of state-controlled companies. Out of them, it is eminently interested in the CEZ giant energy utility, whose general meeting will be deciding on the dismissals and election of its supervisory board members this week.
Besides, the KSCM seeks seats on the boards of health insurance companies and television and radio councils, up to hundreds of posts of far-from-negligible influence, Tyden writes.