So the inevitable has happened – the government has fallen in Czech Republic. 101 of the 200 deputies voted against Topolánek’s administration, as reported by PA. So what happens now? According to Czech left-ish daily Právo (part translated by euro|topics), basically nothing. 3 attempts to form a new administration have to fail before new elections have to be called, and each attempt is likely to take 6 months… so things will stumble on until the elections that are already scheduled for 2010. According to Právo:
This means they can give their votes of no confidence without having to worry about losing their own mandates
Lest we not forget this is the country that has brute Vaclav Klaus as its President, a man who stated in the EP a couple of weeks ago that those that suffered under Communism better understood how important democracy is, and understand the value of a parliamentary opposition. Yet today in Czech Republic the opposition – and its leader Jiri Paroubek – have achieved a pyrrhic victory. They’ve kicked a lame duck government at the time Czech Republic holds the EU Presidency and put the country’s government in further paralysis at a time of economic troubles, letting bickering fester on for the next 18 months. I’m not impressed.
[UPDATE – 26.03.09]
German newspaper Die Tageszeitung sums it all up neatly:
But to make matters worse, the government crisis in Prague is also blocking the necessary European constitutional reform, because it serves Czech president Václav Klaus as a pretence for putting off signing the Treaty of Lisbon. And so the putsch of the supposedly Europe-friendly Czech Social Democrats harms not only their own government, but all of Europe.
As ever, translation from euro|topics.
Well, my argument on a European perspective was that I don’t think it will honestly change anything to the efficiency of the czech presidency: it’s not like they would have been good if they weren’t voted out.
My argument on a Czech scale is more partisan: I am a social-democrat myself. I think that Topalanek’s government was taking exactly the wrong steps to respond to the crisis nationally, from what I have been reading (though I am no expert in Czech politics). But I don’t need to be Czech to know that I disagree strongly with ideas such as a flat income tax, and that I am convinced that further neo-liberalisation of the Czech economy would be exactly the wrong way to respond to the crisis: I hope a more left-of-centre government will be voted in after the summer, and that can bring to the CZR the social policies it needs.
The ‘political leadership’ provided by the ODS government isn’t exactly something I’ll be weeping for either.
In the end, the only one I feel sorry for is Vondra. He seemed to be the only one to care. But I think he’s understood the political mood and probably will accept one of the jobs that are being talked about for him and pack up to Brussels, where he’ll be a welcome addition, I think.
“….that those that suffered under Communism better understood how important democracy is…”
Not really one Klaus’s more objectionable statements: pretty much all Czech politicians get up on their high horse and say this from time to time. Vaclav Havel said the same thing to foreign audiences including the EP when he was Czech President.
Comparing the EU to the USSR, climate change denial, rampant anti-German nationalism… Now there’s the authentic brute Klaus.
If the CSSD could propose an alternative government or was doing more than just opposition for opposition’s sake I would agree with you, but the Czech Republic will be in limbo now (or even more so) than before. The current Czech government is in an even worse position to provide political leadership, and this could give Klaus a bigger platform to voice his opinions, many of which are at odds with the Czech public (according to the polls I’ve seen).
Well, obviously, making a government fall in the middle of its mandate as president of the Council is maybe not the best way to make the cz presidency a successful one.
But to be honest, Topalanek and the ODS didn’t need that last push by the CSSD to completely ruin the reputation, credibility and strength of their presidency: they did that very well themselves.
If anything, this further highlights that a permanent council presidency is needed; even though Jon I know you think this will increase the power of the council vis-a-vis the EC and EP. As a federalist, I believe in a European interest, and that the Council, as an institution of the European Union and co-legislator of EU law, should defend it. Very naive, when it is composed of representatives of national governments, I know.
But the implication in the other sense is that Member States should have and keep a government to represent their people, and that those people should have the only say on the formation of their government. This means that I think it is important that governments may be able to change regardless of their Presidency of the Council, without the EU putting pressure on national legislators or governments for changes not to occur. Hence my belief that the rotating presidency has to stop.
Of course, I can only be flabbergasted that the Czech constitution allows for a lame-duck government to tag on for 18 months after having been ousted. I would have hoped that in a democratic state, a motion of no-confidence would trigger elections automatically if a new government can’t receive Parliament’s backing within a short period of time.
I still think the Social-Democrats were right to topple Topalanek’s government. Their role is that of a national opposition, and Topalanek’s gvt has been unsuccessful and has introduced neo-liberal reforms to the economy that I hope the Czech people will try to revert. I only regret it couldn’t happen before Jan 1, maybe we would have had a more successful start of the presidency then, on issues such as Gaza and the Gas crisis.
From a European perspective also, Topalanek’s demise can only be positive. The CSSD is the party which has kept the Lisbon treaty ratification alive in the Czech republic, without their dynamic action on this subject, I am convinced it would have been binned on 14 june 2008.
The linking of the American shield system with the ratification by the ODS govt is also I find a hostage-taking of the rest of the EU, for a project which seems to be running into difficulties, from the US and from Russia. Hopefully this senseless condition will now disappear, paving the way for a quick signature by Klaus if the Irish vote yes in autumn.
On the whole I’m sorry to disagree, but I rubbed my hands when I read this this morning. The EU has enough incompetent / sleazy / eurosceptical leaders (cross out unnecessary adjectives) and the removal of one of them is something I would celebrate with the CSSD.
For the record, this was Paroubek’s fifth attempt at a no-confidence vote in three years. The opposition under Paroubek has been all about negating everything the government does, with no constructive ideas of their own. After the elections in 2006 where his (then-incumbent) ČSSD and Topolánek’s ODS came out even, he sabotaged all negotiations and just kept on truckin’ for another six months. It took two tries to finally form the lame-duck government that has just ended (and after that Paroubek spent another 6 months holding weekly press conferences where he’d urge various ministers to resign). Simply put, the man has absolutely no interest in the good of the nation, or Europe; just his own.
Honestly, I don’t think they even expected to succeed this time; they probably just wanted to show their voters how they’re fighting the “blue menace”, safe in the knowledge that the task of working out the issues facing the country will fall to anyone but them. Oddly enough, said voters seem to be getting tired of their shenanigans, as recent opinion polls have shown ODS consistently gaining on ČSSD in prospective votes.
(Not that Topolánek’s government is all saints, of course; they’re largely a band of buffoons knee-deep in various scandals, and the Czech House of Representatives is consistently the most awful gathering of 200 people in Central Europe. But the “socdem” are an order of magnitude worse than the rest, and that’s coming from someone who considered himself a social democrat before Paroubek’s ascent.)
It’s a terrible state of affairs. I half expected the Czech government to limp on for the sake of the European Council presidency and the status it entails, but it becomes more incompresensible if the opposition can’t from a government. As bad as this government was (and I can only judge it from a European perspective), throwing out the old gov. without having an alternative in place seems irresponsible. Opposition for opposition’s sake is never really a good idea.