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Babiš’s government promises investments during 100 days in office

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Prague, March 19 (CTK) – The Czech minority government of Andrej Babis (ANO), which keeps working after its resignation, has promised investments of billions of crowns in sport and culture infrastructure and roads as well as cheaper fare for students and pensioners during its first 100 days in office.

The critics say the government will not be able to keep its promises if the economic growth slows down. They also challenge what they call “its permanent election campaign” and the personnel changes made by the government despite its failure to win confidence of the Chamber of Deputies.

Babis’s ANO scored a landslide victory in the last October election, but his minority government lost a confidence vote in the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of Czech parliament, in January and resigned. It continues ruling pending the establishment of Babis’s new cabinet with which President Milos Zeman entrusted him again.

Courts are likely to decide on several cases of dismissed expert deputy ministers who were sacked though they were protected by the civil service law.

A fuss was stirred up by the statement of General Inspection of Security Corps (GIBS) chief Michal Murin, saying Babis exerted pressure on him to make him resign. Babis said Murin has lost his trust. After debating his case in the Chamber of Deputies security committee, Babis announced that Murin would be temporarily suspended, which ex-PM Bohuslav Sobotka (Social Democrats, CSSD) called Babis’s effort to control a significant part of the security forces.

The fact that Babis is negotiating about support for his new cabinet with Zeman’s consent influences the work of his first government.

After three months, it seems that he will strike a deal with the Communists (KSCM) on support for a minority coalition government of ANO and the Social Democrats (CSSD). However, Babis covers his back by making programme concessions to the anti-EU Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD), which some ANO ministers call extremist.

Consequently, the government let the bill on general referendum drafted by the SPD be sent to the Chamber of Deputies, though it claims it does not want the possibility to vote on significant foreign political issues, such as the Czech Republic’s departure from the EU, in a plebiscite.

The cabinet often submits its own bills as the MPs’ proposals, and thereby avoids the standard comment procedure, and it cuts the deadline for the legislative preparation in the case of other bills.

Last week, the government approved a dubious amendment to the law on civil service that would open it to external experts before debating it in the Tripartite Council, which brings together representatives of the government, trade unions and employers.

At the beginning of its term, Babis’s cabinet also proposed changes to the government order of procedure to speed up the legislative process, but under the criticism, it withdrew the most controversial proposals, for instance, the strengthening of the PM’s position.

In the past few weeks, Babis and his ministers kept his promises to tour the regions. So far, his cabinet has visited the Zlin (south Moravia) and Liberec (north Bohemia) regions.

During the first three months in office, Babis’s government was dealing with protests of taxi drivers complaining about the sluggish state approach to the regulation of the shared economy, in particular their rival Uber ride-hailing service. The government promised to speed up the adoption of laws in this area and it is negotiating with alternative transport providers on their operation in the Czech market.

Babis was also criticised for threatening democracy in connection with the election of Communist (KSCM) MP Zdenek Ondracek, former member of the riot police who had taken part in a crackdown on anti-Communist demonstrators under the previous regime, as the head of the Chamber of Deputies’ commission for the GIBS. This stirred up mass public protests all over the country and made Ondracek step down from the post eventually.

Last Thursday, students of some 300 secondary schools, universities and colleges joined a 30-minute token strike to defend social and constitutional values.

Babis’s government has been the third in the Czech Republic’s history not to have won the lower house confidence.

The caretaker cabinet of Jiri Rusnok was ruling the longest time (175 days) after it lost a confidence vote on August 7, 2013. The first government of Mirek Topolanek (Civic Democrats, ODS) was kept in power for 98 days without the MPs’ confidence at the end of 2006 and the beginning of 2007.

So far, 62 days have passed since Babis’s team lost a confidence vote, but it will definitely remain in office for a few more weeks as a new cabinet can only be formed after the CSSD’s internal referendum on its possible entry into his second government.

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