Growing dissent threatens Czech ruling coalition

CzechNews, Martina Macková
24. 9. 2008 12:30
Disloyalty of MPs hits coalition right before elections
Dissenting MPs Vlastimil Tlustý (left) and Juraj Raninec
Dissenting MPs Vlastimil Tlustý (left) and Juraj Raninec | Foto: Ondřej Besperát

Prague - On the eve of upcoming regional elections to be held in October, the fragile government majority in the lower house is increasingly threatened by rebelling MPs.

On Tuesday 23 September, six coalition MPs voted with the opposition. The revolt was one of the reasons why the government parties finally withdrew an anti-discrimination bill from the schedule of the current house session.

"This day marks an earthquake in the coalition. Its MPs are disobeying and finding the courage to hold different views and not simply uphold a fragile majority," said Michal Hašek, lower-house leader of the opposition Social Democrats.

Unpopular, but necessary

The legislation, which is required by the EU, was previously vetoed by President Václav Klaus. The coalition now needs 101 votes to override the veto, but it currently does not have as many loyal legislators at its disposal.

Raed more: Poll: Social Democrats ahead by 10 percent

The Czech Republic remains the only EU member state that has not yet adopted the anti-discrimination law. The country may face sanctions from Brussels, as Czech politicians pledged to adopt the law before the country's EU accession. While the legislation is unpopular among the opposition as well as a majority of the coalition, the government made its adoption part of its policy statement.

Miloš Melčák and Michal Pohanka
Miloš Melčák and Michal Pohanka | Foto: Ondřej Besperát

Rebels everywhere

The coalition now cannot count on the votes of dissenting Civic Democrats (ODS) Vlastimil Tlustý, Jan Schwippel and Juraj Raninec. The alienation between the trio and the rest of ODS, the senior ruling party, increased after a recent blackmail affair. Schwippel and Raninec have already quit the ODS lower-house group.

Read more: Czech MP caught red-handed in political blackmail case

To offset the loss of the three votes, the coalition now needs to seek support from four opposition MPs, including those of unaffiliated Miloš Melčák and Michal Pohanka. The two former Social Democrats have often voted with the coalition since the 2006 general elections ended in a stalemate. But now their support will not be enough.

To make things worse, the support of three more rebellious coalition MPs, Věra Jakubková, Olga Zubová (both Green Party) and Ludvík Hovorka (Christian Democrat) remains uncertain.

MPs push Morava committee

The lack of loyalty within the coalition camp became apparent when the opposition managed to include the so-called Morava affair in the session programme. The opposition is proposing to establish a special committee to investigate suspected lobbying and blackmail in the highest political circles by MP Jan Morava (ODS).

Nine coalition MPs voted to discuss the proposal at the current session, including PM Mirek Topolánek, who said he would like the committee to also investigate alleged blackmail attempts by former Social Democrat MPs.


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