Friday, 25 April 2014

MfD: Zeman, Kalousek not to undermine ODS

1 February 2013

Prague, Jan 31 (CTK) - Neither Czech president-elect Milos Zeman nor Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek, strengthened by the presidential polls, are likely to use their position to oust PM Petr Necas's Civic Democrats (ODS) as the government leader, Martin Komarek writes in Mlada fronta Dnes (MfD) today.

Zeman, former socialist prime minister now linked to the small Citizens' Rights Party (SPOZ), says Necas' rightist cabinet should leave, but he does not mean it seriously, Komarek writes.

Zeman only says what he is expected to say. After all, he owes much of his election success to Bohuslav Sobotka and Michal Hasek, senior opposition Social Democrat (CSSD) leaders who backed him before the presidential run-off vote, Komarek writes.

Sobotka and Hasek seem to love provoking no-confidence votes, he says, alluding to the CSSD's repeated unsuccessful attempts to have the cabinet unseated by the Chamber of Deputies.

The election of the new president has not changed the balance of power between the government and the opposition.

Moreover, Zeman has to seek a modus vivendi with the CSSD, which he chaired in the past and with which he fell out in the mid-2000s, Komarek writes.

Zeman probably does not wish the Necas cabinet's departure. It was clumsy of Necas to react to Zeman seriously and say he cannot unseat the government but by means of a coup, Komarek says.

Zeman, as future president, has no power to topple the government, Komarek points out.

For Necas it is probably more dangerous that the balance of forces in the governing coalition has changed in the wake of the presidential election, Komarek continues.

The position of the junior ruling TOP 09 has markedly strengthened owing to the party chairman and Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg's candidacy in the presidential elections, in which he did incomparably better than the ODS's candidate, Komarek writes.

The ODS's candidate, Senate deputy head Premysl Sobotka, failed in the first round, finishing eighth of nine contenders.

Schwarzenberg advanced to the second round, in which he lost to Zeman, but still was supported by an impressive 46 percent of voters. TOP 09's position and popularity markedly rose along with Schwarzenberg's, Komarek writes.

It is therefore not surprising that Kalousek, TOP 09 deputy chairman, has used the situation to urge the ODS to nod to Czech accession to the EU fiscal compact, which Necas, along with British PM David Cameron, ostentatiously rejected to sign a year ago, Komarek writes.

In view of Schwarzenberg's soaring popularity, early elections would be advantageous for Kalousek [and TOP 09] rather than Zeman. Unlike Zeman, Kalousek can provoke early polls [by withdrawing TOP 09's support from the cabinet], Komarek writes.

If the government does not disintegrate over internal disputes, Necas, the right-wing prime minister, will have to find a way of cohabitation with Zeman, the left-leaning president, and vice versa, Komarek writes.

This should not be a problem for either of the two. In spite of their temperamental differences, the two share the same approach to political practice. Zeman may be less scrupulous than Necas, but both of them are skilled and experienced behind-the-scenes players, Komarek writes.

At present, Zeman is actually not interested in hampering Necas's plans. The government has pushed through its crucial [unpopular] reforms and now it will be trying hard to regain voters' support. Its chance of taking up power again after elections seems very low, Komarek writes.

That is why Zeman will probably prefer strengthening his own position on the left side of the political scene, as the left, dominated by the CSSD, will probably be his partner for a larger period of his presidential mandate, Komarek writes.

Zeman's "tackling" of the divided left scene will be more difficult than his tackling of the declining but still politically predictable ODS, Komarek writes.

Verbal exchanges of fire will naturally take place. Paradoxically, they may benefit Necas, who may mobilise the disappointed ODS fans by depicting the prospect of President Zeman ruling in alliance with a leftist CSSD-led cabinet including the Communists, Komarek says.

By saying that Schwarzenberg may become the new prime minister, Kalousek unveiled his old dream about TOP 09 replacing the ODS as the Czech right leader, Komarek continues.

Schwarzenberg's enormous popularity among non-left voters is undisputable and unparalleled with anyone in the ODS, he says.

Nevertheless, the idea of Schwarzenberg becoming head of a non-left coalition that would try to defeat the left is unfeasible. Schwarzenberg is popular as a personality embodying reason, sharp wit and elegance, not as TOP 09 chairman and friend of unpopular Kalousek, Komarek points out.

The idea of Schwarzenberg leading the right to victorious elections seems unfeasible, though everything may happen in politics, Komarek writes.

More probably, Kalousek will use his strong position to exert only slight pressure on Necas. His appeal for Prague to join the EU fiscal pact is logical as the Czech government is introducing the same budget responsibility steps now. By refusing the compact, Necas previously probably only bowed to Eurosceptic President and ODS ex-chairman Vaclav Klaus and some anti-European ODS officials, Komarek writes.

Returning to the main EU stream is advantageous for Prague. The Eurosceptics in the ODS have no longer chance of preventing it now that Klaus's mandate as president is expiring. Necas will probably realise this and he will continue striking "standard deals" with Kalousek, Komarek concludes.

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