You are here: Home Články / Articles 1999 CSSD Government under pressure

CSSD Government under pressure

Reports that the Czech Republic's budget deficit in 1999 will be much higher than originally projected by the government have sparked a new debate about the fate of the Social Democratic government. Some opposition parties have suggested that the parliament should consider passing a vote of no-confidence in the government. The Civic Democratic Party (ODS), which in July 1998 allowed the CSSD to form a minority government under the so-called opposition agreement, has however said it will not attempt to recall the government. Without the ODS's support, the vote of no- confidence cannot be passed.

Voices critical of the government's performance can be heard not only from the opposition parties but, increasingly, also from the ranks of the CSSD. It is no secret that a wing within the party, that is headed by CSSD parliamentary caucus chairman Stanislav Gross, views the government's performance with skepticism. Gross has even announced that government members will be invited to a meeting of the CSSD caucus to give accounts of their performance.

In a a related development, the Central Bohemian organization of the CSSD has prepared an analytical paper in which it criticizes the recent congress of the CSSD as "sterile". The document is also critical of the power that CSSD Chairman Milos Zeman has accumulated in his hands. It says that at the congress Zeman prevented both any criticism of the opposition agreements and calls for a majority government.

CSSD Deputy Chairman Petra Buzkova, who opposes Zeman, had been critical of the opposition agreement even before the congress. She had also called for creating a majority coalition, mentioning the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) and the Freedom Union (US) as the CSSD's possible partners.

The CSSD government has performed poorly for two basic reasons. First, it is a minority government that has found it difficult to push its bills though the parliament. As a result, the parliament has passed only 8 new laws since the beginning of 1999. This slowdown comes at a time when the Czech Republic is under pressure from the European Union to pass a large number of new laws that would bring the Czech legal system in line with the of the EU.

Another problem is the personal composition of the government. Some ministers, such as Industry and Trade Minister Miroslav Gregr and Health Minister Ivan Davod, have made controversial decisions. Trade Union leader Richard Falbr has openly suggested that Greg step down. The Association of Czech Physicians has demanded the resignation of David.

The performances of individual ministers have been uneven. While, for example, Foreign Minister Jan Kavan has performed well, in particular during the Yugoslav crisis, other ministers have been unable to convince the public that they are competent enough to hold their jobs. The government as a whole has been ambivalent about the NATO intervention in Yugoslavia, attracting criticism from the media, the opposition, and the president.

The popularity of the government has been steadily decreasing since it was formed in July 1998. Currently, only over 20 percent of the public trusts the government. The public's confidence in the right-of-center government of Vaclav Klaus was only marginally lower when it collapsed in December 1997. It is, therefore, clear, that Zeman will be under increasing pressure to come up with formula to reform his government. So far he has been refusing to even replace the most discredited ministers.

In reforming the government, Zeman has two basic options. He may want to stay with a minority government, whose existence will continue to depend on the opposition treaty, but he may replace several ministers. In fact, some analysts said shortly after Zeman introduced his government last year that he had intentionally put together a "B-team," knowing that the deepening economic crisis would take its toll on the government. Zeman said last year that his government was on "a suicide mission." He might have not wanted to use the CSSD's best talents to be in such a government.

Zeman may also opt for creating a majority government. Analysts have speculated about the creation of a coalition between the CSSD, the US, and the KDU-CSL. But the recent CSSD and US congresses have made that option rather implausible, as both parties stressed more mutual aversions than their willingness to cooperate.

Another possibility is the creation of a grand coalition between the CSSD and the ODS. ODS Deputy Chairman Miroslav Macek suggested in a newspaper article on 5 May that the deepening economic crisis may require the two parties to start seriously pondering such an option. Such a coalition could, indeed, move the country ahead, should the two parties be able to agree on a reform program. But there are also several areas, such as the reform of the state administration system, in which the CSSD and the ODS principally disagree. The grand coalition of the two parties could thus easily produce the same decision-making paralysis that the country is experiencing now.

Reuters - 6. 5. 1999