Saturday, 16 December 2017

Post-election obstinacy may harm democrats more than Babiš

ČTK |
20 November 2017

Prague, Nov 16 (CTK) - Czech post-election talks have been inconclusive so far but it is not due to lacking solutions but to democratic parties' obstinacy, which prevents the emergence of a new government and with which the election-winning ANO will cope sooner or later, Petr Honzejk writes in Hospodarske noviny (HN) on Thursday.

One month after the general election, no prospect of a government enjoying the Chamber of Deputies' support is in the offing. Many speak of a deadlock, but deadlock means a lack of solutions, while several possible solutions exist on the Czech scene, where Andrej Babis's ANO can be expected to finally prevail, Honzejk writes.

After ANO's sweeping election victory, other parties shun forming a government with it, fearing that Babis could destroy them as he destroyed his partners in the previous government.

The Social Democrats (CSSD) and the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) paid dear for their "cohabitation" with Babis in the past four years, Honzejk writes, alluding to the two parties' fiasco in the October 20-21 general election.

True, parties' self-preservation instinct works and generates their instinctive obstinacy, Honzejk writes.

The situation on "the other side of the chessboard" is the same. If he wanted to, Babis could immediately strike a power-sharing deal with Tomio Okamura and Vojtech Filip, leaders of the Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) and the Communists (KSCM), respectively, who are eager to gain a share in power, Honzejk writes.

However, Babis does not want to form an open alliance with these extremist parties because he could hardly find an excuse for it before his partners in the ALDE (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats) group in the European Parliament, Honzejk writes.

Babis's recent explanation that he is "no populist but a pragmatist" would not help him in ALDE's eyes. Even pragmatism has certain limits, or better - its bottom, Honzejk writes.

Babis wants to ally with democratic parties, which, for their part, refuse to ally with him. Extremists want to ally with Babis, while he does not want them, Honzejk writes.

The situation, reminiscent of a love triangle, can be resolved very easily, if parties suppressed their emotions, started thinking rationally and realised that concessions on both sides are a condition for any agreement, Honzejk writes.

Does Babis really want the establishment of a coalition government including democratic parties? OK, he only has to stop clinging to the post of prime minister, and such a government would be formed by Christmas, Honzejk writes, alluding to some parties' refusal to accept Babis as prime minister in spite of the fraud charges he is faced with.

It would be either a coalition cabinet or a minority one supported by parties that do not base their existence on class hatred or Islamophobia and latent racism, Honzejk says, referring to the KSCM and the SPD, respectively.

Simply, a "civilised" government setup is feasible if Babis made the concession and gave up the post of PM, Honzejk writes.

Do the democratic parties want the country to have a standard government and avoid a constitutional crisis, but without themselves allying with the prosecuted oligarch Babis? OK, they only have to agree with Babis on a project that could be called "a total opposition agreement," Honzejk writes.

Based on the agreement, the democratic opposition would tolerate Babis's government in exchange for Babis's pledge not to seek changes to the constitution, such as the abolition of the Senate, and not to stage a "suicidal" referendum on Prague's departure from the EU, and for his acceptance of further limits that would guarantee the survival of liberal democracy, Honzejk writes.

Obstinacy might harm the democratic parties rather than Babis, whose manoeuvring space is far wider. Finally, he may let his minority cabinet be tolerated in parliament by the extremists. In exchange, he may promise things to them that would make the democrats upset, such as a Czexit referendum, Honzejk writes.

Or Babis may agree with President Milos Zeman on the latter leaving his minority cabinet in power indefinitely even without parliament's support. Simultaneously, he would steeply raise pensions and civil servants' pay, as a result of which "the grateful Czechs" would cast even much more votes for him in early elections than in the recent ones, Honzejk writes, referring to ANO's 30 percent of the vote and current 78 seats in the 200-seat Chamber of Deputies.

The democratic parties - the Civic Democrats (ODS), the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL), the Mayors and Independents (STAN), TOP 09, the Social Democrats (CSSD) and the Pirates - should consider averting the last two mentioned scenarios, otherwise the country could only hardly get rid of Babis's governance style, whatever it might mean, Honzejk concludes.

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