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Former PM against Social Democrats in ANO government

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Prague, March 2 (CTK) – Former Czech Social Democrat (CSSD) leader and prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka is considered the biggest troublemaker in the party’s deputy group as he is against the Social Democrats forming a coalition with Prime Minister Andrej Babis’s ANO, the daily Pravo wrote on Friday.

Even if an internal party referendum decides in favour of the coalition, Sobotka may not respect it and will not support the government, Pravo writes.

Babis was finance minister in Sobotka’s coalition government until May 2017 when he was sacked over his dubious financial transactions.

“Let us wait and see what will be the outcome of the referendum, I do not want to announce my position beforehand,” Sobotka told the paper.

He told the financial paper Hospodarske noviny (HN) before that “within the party, he will vote against its entering a government along with ANO.”

Along with Sobotka, the idea may be rejected by former interior minister Milan Chovanec, former party deputy chairman Roman Onderka and Senator Alena Gajduskova.

However, they are less likely to disrespect the result of the referendum, Pravo writes.

This is why the Social Democrat leaders would like to find a post outside the Chamber of Deputies for Sobotka.

However, Sobotka has dismissed the idea. “I am still a responsible member of the deputy group. I want to continue with this. We have enough mechanisms for a discussion of differing views inside the party and deputy group,” Sobotka told the paper before the recent Social Democrat national congress.

“In the discussion, I will always advocate a principled Social Democrat policy, focusing on its values,” he added.

Some Social Democrat senior officials are saying that the proposed referendum should be called off.

“It is easier to control 500 delegates to a congress than thousands of party members,” a Social Democrat deputy, who requested anonymity, has told the paper.

“I presume that everyone will behave responsibly,” Jiri Zimola, the newly elected first deputy chairman of the party, said after his talks with Babis.

If the parties agree on their coalition, each vote will have tremendous importance in the confidence vote. In the 200-seat Chamber of Deputies, ANO has 78 and the CSSD 15 seats.

This is why Babis needs at least tacit support for his government in the making. He is also conducting talks with the Communists (15 seats) and the anti-EU Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD, 22 seats).

However, if Babis strikes a deal with the SPD, he may risk a rebellion among his own ministers, Pravo writes. Two of them, Justice Minister Robert Pelikan and Foreign Minister Martin Stropnicky, have said they are against a government relying on the SPD support.

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