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HN: Division of posts to show who may back Babiš’ minority gov’t

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Prague, Nov 21 (CTK) – The division of posts in the new Czech Chamber of Deputies will indicate which parties in it might finally support the nascent one-colour minority cabinet of Andrej Babis’ election-winning ANO movement, Jan Stetka writes in daily Hospodarske noviny (HN) on Tuesday.

One month after the general election, the lower house’s constituent session started on Monday in a situation where it is not clear which of the nine parties in the house form the future government coalition and which are the opposition ones, Stetka writes.

Out of the eight constituent sessions in the history of the independent Czech Republic, the current one is the second held under such “wild” circumstances, Stetka writes.

The first such situation occurred after the mid-2006 elections that ended in a stalemate, which had rather sad consequences. At the time, the election of the lower house chairman, Miloslav Vlcek (Social Democrats, CSSD), lasted record 49 days and the formation of a stable government took up long seven months, Stetka writes.

A similar deadlock is unlikely to threaten now, since Babis seems to have struck a deal with selected parties in parliament on their support for his minority government, though all parties continue officially refusing to support it, Stetka writes.

A [probable] pact of Babis, an oligarch, with the extreme-left Communists (KSCM) and the far-right Freedom and Direct Democracy Movement (SPD) is a delicate issue for all participants in it. That is why the dividing of posts in parliament at its constituent session will indicate the extent and way of the pro-Babis parties’ cooperation rather than the lineup of the government to be presented by Babis. The division of parliamentary posts will be the moment of the truth, Stetka writes.

In the hours to come, it will become clear whether Babis is really as good a bargainer as he presents himself, Stetka writes.

Babis has offered attractive “spoon lures” to win partners for ANO’s planned “quasi-coalition.” He promised the SPD to secure not only the post of a lower house deputy chairman for SPD leader Tomio Okamura, but also the seats of chairpersons of two crucial parliamentary committees, the security and economic ones, Stetka writes.

In relation to the KSCM, Babis has promised the post of lower house deputy chairman to KSCM leader Vojtech Filip and the post of chairperson of the important budget committee, Stetka writes.

Even the Pirates will get a seat of a lower house deputy chairperson and of the heads of the committees for public administration and for the environment, Stetka says.

The SPD, the KSCM and the Pirates are to receive the above posts in exchange for their support for a smooth election of ANO’s Radek Vondracek as lower house chairman and of ANO’s other candidates as heads of eight lower house committees, including the agricultural one, Stetka writes in a possible allusion to agriculture and food processing as the fields of operation of Agrofert, a holding that belonged to Babis and is now being managed by a trust fund for Babis to avoid a conflict of interest.

If these “silent test bargains” work smoothly, the path towards the above parties’ toleration of the Babis cabinet and towards the lower house voting confidence in it will certainly be fast, Stetka writes.

Babis’s pact has left only two posts of lower house deputy chairpersons and the chairmanship of only five of the total of 18 committees to the probable opposition comprised of the Civic Democrats (ODS), the Social Democrats (CSSD), TOP 09, the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) and the Mayors and Independents (STAN), Stetka writes.

Such a solution smacks of a dictate by a majority. It would be worse, however, if it were an informal, silent majority, which would make the identification of the government coalition impossible. If so, it would be a feeding ground for corruption, intrigues and irresponsibility, Stetka concludes.

Babis’s ANO won the October 20-21 general election far ahead of its rivals, gaining 78 seats in the 200-seat Chamber of Deputies.

The ODS ended second with 25 seats, followed by the Pirates, the SPD (22 seats each), the KSCM, the CSSD (15 seats each), the KDU-CSL (10), TOP 09 (seven) and STAN (six).

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