When the junior partner in the Czech Republic’s ruling coalition, the social democratic (ČSSD), said it would allow the government to survive by abstaining from a motion of no-confidence on Friday, one of the region’s oldest parties may have accelerated – by apparently delaying – its demise.
Andrej Babiš has been the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic since December 2017. His party, the Action of Dissatisfied Citizens (ANO), and the ČSSD run a minority government backed by the Communists, which gives the opposition no chance of getting the 101 votes necessary to declare no-confidence. The opposition has 92 seats in the 200-seat lower house.
The ČSSD, like many of its sister center-left parties in Europe, is facing a historic dilemma. As Political scientist Petr Just told Prague Radio
On one hand they want to stay in the coalition because they know there is at least one party, Tomio Okamura’s Freedom and Direct Democracy Party (SPD), that wants to replace them. So in case they withdraw from the government they will lose the chance to be a party of power.
But on the other hand, he said, they are in government with a person who is under investigation and is very controversial. “So are seen as the ones keeping Mr. Babiš in politics.”
Past no guarantee of future
The Social Democratic Czechoslavonic party in Austria was founded on 7 April 1878 in Austria-Hungary and since the dissolution of Czechoslovakia in 1993 has been one of the major political parties. But the party suffered heavy losses in the 2017 election being reduced to 15 seats, the worst result in its history.
And when the current government was finally created, many were deeply ambivalent in the party when it was decided to join.
Party leader Jan Hamáček said this week’s decision was made due to two key developments in recent days – the efforts of the populist SPD to strike a deal with ANO to replace the ČSSD in the coalition and president Miloš Zeman’s announcement that if the government were to fall, he would task Babiš to form a new government.
Babiš, the country’s second richest man, is suspected of EU subsidy fraud in what the Czechs call the Stork’s Nest scandal – one of the worst in Czech politics since the end of communism in 1989. The long-running probe is into allegations that €2m ($2.4m) in EU funds was falsely obtained.
The crisis was compounded by a Seznam Zprávy documentary last week showing footage of the pm’s son, Andrej Babiš, making allegations that seemed to implicate his father.
Babiš jnr said he was ‘persuaded’ to go to Crimea when police wanted to question him. He said he had been given the choice of “taking an extended holiday” or being admitted to a psychiatric hospital.
On Facebook the prime minister wrote, “No one kidnapped my son, he left the Czech Republic voluntarily.”
This article written by Jo Harper originally appeared in Forbes