New Czech cabinet sworn in amid row

Czech president Milos Zeman defies parliament with technocrat government

Czech Republic’s president Milos Zeman (right) and prime minister Jiri Rusnok toast after the cabinet’s inauguration at Prague Castle in Prague on Wednesday. Photograph: David W Cerny/Reuters

Czech Republic’s president Milos Zeman (right) and prime minister Jiri Rusnok toast after the cabinet’s inauguration at Prague Castle in Prague on Wednesday. Photograph: David W Cerny/Reuters

Thu, Jul 11, 2013, 01:00


Czech president Milos Zeman has defied his parliament and sworn in a new government led by a longtime ally, despite fears that it will only prolong the country’s political paralysis.

The non-partisan cabinet replaces the centre-right coalition of former prime minister Petr Necas, which collapsed last month after a close aide of the then-premier, several former deputies and two military intelligence chiefs were arrested in a major spying and corruption scandal.

The new government led by economist Jiri Rusnok has been rejected by all the parties that were in the previous ruling coalition and by the opposition Social Democrats, leaving little hope that it will win a parliamentary approval vote within the required 30 days.

But even if it fails to secure approval, the cabinet can remain in office as caretaker until elections scheduled for next May.


President’s power
Of the major parties, only the Social Democrats want snap elections, and they do not have enough votes in parliament to trigger them.

The appointment of the new government under Mr Rusnok – who served as finance minister in Mr Zeman’s leftist government in 2001-2002 – is seen as boosting the power of the president, who analysts believe could exert an usually strong influence on policy in the months ahead.

At a ceremony in Prague castle yesterday, Mr Zeman thanked the new ministers, who include former premier Jan Fischer as finance minister and ex-foreign minister Jan Kohout returning to the post of top diplomat.

“I know many of you have left better-paid jobs to work for our country . . . I want to thank all members of this government for [their] courage. There is a lack of courage in Czech politics,” Mr Zeman said, urging them to ignore the scepticism of Czech journalists.


‘Envious idiots’
“Do not let yourselves get annoyed by media criticism from envious idiots who have never done anything worthwhile in their lives. Do your utmost for your work to be successful.”

Mr Zeman also congratulated Mr Rusnok on fulfilling his pledge to form a new government in two weeks. “There are few Czech politicians who keep their word, and that is why I appreciate it.”

Parliamentary speaker Miroslava Nemcova, who was the outgoing coalition’s nomination for premier, called the new cabinet “toxic” and refused to drink a toast with the new ministers.

“I reject the government as a whole because it bypassed parliament and has been standing in opposition to it,” she said.