With his unexpected somersault, Jiří Paroubek has played another important part in the tragicomic story of Czech politics. Two weeks ago, the unexceptionally pleasant and relaxed ČSSD chairman was trying to convince us that quick elections and an end to instability are essential for the country and that politicians are obliged to agree as fast as possible on a constitutionally sound way to hold them. Tensed and determined, he has now announced that his party will not support early elections.
Paroubek’s somersault is harming the country. There’s no need to explain how. He himself described it vividly for us only a few days ago: We need elections fast. The ČSSD gave preference to its own interests over the public’s. It is evident that the November elections would have suited neither a significant part of the ČSSD nor the party as a whole. There are three scenarios why this might be the case.
The first one: Paroubek received poll results showing that the ČSSD might lose. From the very beginning, he did not like the idea of elections at the time of the 20th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution. The ODS, which lacked good election topics and energy this year, has been on alert since April against his possible alliance with the Communists.
What’s more, one opinion poll suggested that a majority cabinet could be formed by the ODS, TOP 09 and the Christian Democrats.
The second scenario: Part of Paroubek’s party has revolted and refused support the November elections. Bohuslav Sobotka, Roman Onderka and Michal Hašek have already shown for a while that they are turning away from their chairman and would like to govern the party themselves. It is possible that they may have already decided that one of them would lead the party in the next elections instead of Paroubek. But resaddling the horse at the party’s Lidový dům headquarters would not be possible by November, so the elections will have to be postponed until June. Sitting next to the nervous Paroubek at a press conference on Tuesday morning, the suave Sobotka, styling himself into the role of a responsible politician, announced that the party is willing to agree on a thrifty budget and that it will not vote for a deficit exceeding CZK 200 billion.
The third scenario: There is a business interest behind it, whatever form it may have. The ČSSD might have started important business at one of the ministries that it now wants to complete.
Whatever the ČSSD’s motive may be, since the end of March when the party overthrew Topolánek’s cabinet, the Social Democrats have been showing us how our constitution is open to political crises and how it makes solving them more difficult.
We need not only a better solution for early elections, but also a constructive no-confidence vote, as Germany has. The cabinet could then be overthrown only by someone with a plan on what would happen after the collapse and the country would