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Health, human rights ministers leave gov’t, to be replaced

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Prague, Nov 11 (CTK) – Health Minister Svatopluk Nemecek and Human Rights Minister Jiri Dienstbier (both Social Democrats, CSSD) are leaving the Czech cabinet and are to be replaced by Miloslav Ludvik, a Prague hospital director, and Jan Chvojka, a CSSD deputy, respectively, PM Bohuslav Sobotka (CSSD) announced on Friday.

Sobotka, who is CSSD chairman, told journalists he will submit the proposal for Nemecek and Dienstbier’s dismissal to President Milos Zeman on Sunday.

Sobotka said he informed Zeman about his plan by phone earlier on Friday.

He thanked the outgoing ministers.

Asked by CTK, Zeman’s spokesman Jiri Ovcacek did not want to comment on whether Zeman approves of the dismissals.

“As far as Jiri Dienstbier is concerned, the president’s long-lasting opinion is well known,” Ovcacek texted.

Zeman and Dienstbier, who is a son of the late dissident and the first Czechoslovak post-communist foreign minister, Jiri Dienstbier Sr., have repeatedly criticised each other in the past years.

Sobotka emphasised that the two ministers are not leaving because of any troubles or scandals.

“I want to thank them for the work they have done for the Czech Republic in the past three years. However, I simply want the social democrat course to be more obvious, the government team to be coherent and the cabinet efficient until the very end of the election term,” Sobotka said.

Nemecek told CTK via his spokesman that the personnel changes are in the jurisdiction of the prime minister who will bear full responsibility for them.

Before meeting Sobotka on Monday, Nemecek said it was not important whether he would be among those dismissed but how the reshuffle would help the CSSD.

Ludvik heads Prague’s Motol University Hospital (FNM), which is the largest health facility in the Czech Republic.

Dienstbier told CTK that the government lineup falls under the jurisdiction of the prime minister.

“I respect his decision, though I am sorry about having to pass my incomplete agenda onto my successor instead of being able to supervise the procedure of its approval by parliament,” Dienstbier said.

“He who will be appointed human rights minister will have to choose whether to promote the agenda actively and to possibly see their popularity decline as a result,” Dienstbier said.

Sobotka announced his plan to replace some CSSD ministers in a letter to CSSD members a week ago. He wrote that changes were necessary in reaction to the CSSD’s failure in the October regional and Senate elections.

The new CSSD ministers will improve the party’s communication and the presentation of its work in the cabinet, Sobotka said on Friday.

The right-wing opposition said the replacements are nothing but the CSSD’s internal policy and a marketing step.

It is no measure taken by the prime minister but a step the CSSD chairman has taken to settle the party’s internal affairs, TOP 09 chairman Miroslav Kalousek said.

Civic Democrat (ODS) chairman Petr Fiala said the reshuffle, which Sobotka makes less than a year before the general election, amounts to mere marketing.

“No new minister will be able to push through anything a few months before the election. The question is whether this is actually a good piece news, in view of the government’s performance so far,” Fiala said.

After Dienstbier’s departure, there will be no senator among the cabinet members. This will force the ministers to personally defend government bills and reports at the session of the Senate, the upper house of parliament.

The CSSD has eight seats in the centre-left 17-member cabinet also including the ANO movement and the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL).

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