Friday, 20 April 2018

Democrats should back ANO gov't if formed without Babiš

ČTK |
17 April 2018

Prague, April 16 (CTK) - It would be correct and respectful of Czech ANO leader Andrej Babis to enable the birth of a majority government headed by other ANO representative than himself, and it would be irresponsible of democratic parties not to support such a cabinet, Erik Tabery writes in weekly Respekt out on Monday.

He reacts to the situation where democratic parties refuse to back a nascent new cabinet of the election-winning and now provisionally governing ANO if headed by Babis, who faces prosecution over a suspected EU subsidy fraud.

ANO dominates the political scene but has a very bad reputation. Some parties, which ANO wishes for government partners, consider ANO a threat to democracy and reject such partnership, Tabery writes.

The extremist Communists (KSCM) and Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) are waiting for what ANO, in case it wins no other partners, will offer to them in exchange for their toleration of its cabinet, Tabery says.

Also complicated by unpredictable pro-Russian President Milos Zeman, the government-forming negotiations have not progressed towards a majority government at all since the October 2017 elections, Tabery writes.

Last Thursday, the Czech political scene saw a noteworthy breakthrough. ANO, notorious for its "take it or leave it" approach to partners, for the first time asked for the reopening of its previously terminated negotiations with the Social Democrats (CSSD). ANO seems to finally understand that it needs a partner to govern with and that it is negotiations, not insults, which helps one win a partner, Tabery writes.

He appreciates it that the ANO broad leadership, mainly regional branches' heads in it, loudly rejected the idea of ANO's cooperation with the [far-right anti-EU] SPD at the Thursday meeting that finally decided to address the CSSD again.

The now nascent ANO-CSSD coalition government seems to be a correct course compared with the previous prospect of an ANO minority government supported by the KSCM and the SPD. However, it is not, because the ANO-CSSD government would also be a minority one and would have to be kept afloat by the KSCM. As a result, extremists would be influencing this type of government as well, Tabery writes.

Moreover, the current CSSD largely adheres to Zeman. Its leadership includes three members who promote a referendum on Czexit. On the part of ANO, the new cabinet will no longer include Robert Pelikan, the justice minister, and most probably also Martin Stropnicky, the foreign minister, who are the strongest pro-Western and non-Zemanite ministers in Babis's current single-party minority government which lost a confidence vote in January and continues ruling pending the establishment of its successor, Tabery writes.

The country thus may have a government of three parties that are rather incomprehensible and stand close to Zeman, Tabery writes about a possible ANO-CSSD cabinet tolerated by the KSCM.

In a media interview last week, Babis complained that his opponents criticise everything he does. If he accepted their calls on him not to join the new cabinet, they would reproach him for controlling such a cabinet from behind the scenes, he complained, and he was right in this respect, Tabery writes.

Really, if Babis gave in and enabled the emergence of a minority cabinet headed by another ANO representative, it would be a correct and respectful step. Such cabinet's performance would be assessed depending on its personnel lineup, programme and mainly its concrete steps, as is the case of any cabinet, Tabery writes.

It would be irresponsible not to give such a cabinet a chance. If an ANO coalition cabinet without Babis lost a confidence vote in parliament, Zeman would gain full control of further developments. He could appoint a new minority government of Babis, since he previously said he was not going to respect the constitution or constitutional habits, Tabery writes.

Second, the public would not understand it why parties in parliament sank a cabinet not including Babis. Third, ANO would come to the conclusion that it would never get a chance whatever its efforts, and it could get radicalised as a cornered animal, Tabery writes.

To an extent, ANO will be as democratic as democratic its partners will be. Those who are rightfully afraid of this dubious "business-like party" should wish it to be under active partners' control in the government, Tabery writes.

A chance for the emergence of such a government does exist. The current parties in parliament can be divided into three groups: the KSCM and the SPD are ready to cooperate with ANO almost immediately. The Pirates, the Civic Democrats (ODS) and TOP 09 rule out any government cooperation with ANO. The CSSD, the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) and the Mayors and Independents (STAN) say cooperation with ANO is possible but not with a prosecuted prime minister. A majority cabinet comprised of democratic parties thus can emerge, Tabery writes.

Babis, however, puts resistance to this solution because he insists on the post of PM. This confirms the impression that his proclamations about the need to modernise the country are far less important than his personal ambitions, Tabery writes.

Babis is offering a "skimmed version of the government nightmare" that would not lean on the SPD but will still depend on support from KSCM, a totalitarian party oriented to the East and to the past, Tabery writes.

If such a government were established, it would require a much stronger attention and activity of the opposition, civic society and watchdog bodies. It will be interesting to see what posts the KSCM would try to fill and how it would influence the government's lineup or steps, Tabery writes.

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