The radar agreement has reached the lower house, but MPs do not seem to be thrilled about it.
Although PM Mirek Topolánek says the US radar base in Brdy is the key issue of his fragile government, he does not have the votes to push the issue through. And chances of him getting the votes before spring are unlikely, although he would like to give the radar to Czechs as a Christmas present – more or less against the citizens’ will.
“We should handle the first reading and then we’ll see,” ODS MPs said at Tuesday’s lower house meeting.
However, the question regarding the radar base seemed almost inappropriate to ask even though the issue was included in the Tuesday meeting agenda. The main issue the MPs discussed on Tuesday was whether the government would survive Wednesday’s no confidence vote.
“The first thing to deal with is the no confidence vote, then the second round of the Senate elections and only then can we discuss further steps,” said Alexandr Vondra (ODS), deputy PM and one of the biggest advocates of the radar base.
It seems so far that Topolánek will not have the 101 votes necessary to push through the radar base earlier than next year. ODS deputies have probably given up their hopes of convincing the rebel MPs Olga Zubová and Věra Jakubková, but those could be replaced by former ČSSD deputies Miloš Melčák and Michal Pohanka and the 101st vote could be provided by Petr Wolf, who left the ČSSD deputy club just recently.
“The radar is not a bad thing, it would bring higher security, but even if it is a good thing, public opinion must be taken into consideration. I will not tell you now whether I vote for the radar,” said Wolf, adding that emotions now rule the situation and the first reading should therefore be postponed until later this year.
But even the 101 votes secured by rebel MPs are not yet clear. At least two other coalition MPs, including Education Minister Ondřej Liška (the Greens) and Ludvík Hovorka (KDU-ČSL) say they will not vote for the radar in December.
“The radar issue may not even be discussed at the upcoming meeting,” said Liška. “I’m not against the issue being passed in the first reading and then discussed by deputy committees. However, I don’t support it now. Liška and Hovorka, who may be the key MPs in the radar voting, both agree the ideal time to vote on the radar will come in the spring when the new US president takes up office and NATO finishes talks regarding the radar support at its summit in March.
The government’s inclination toward the spring term is supported by the existence of two scenarios for the Lisbon Treaty approval process, which is to take place “by coincidence” also in December or March: The ODS takes the important EU document hostage, aiming to exchange it with other parties for the radar. The same applies to the International Court of Justice treaty, still held by ODS committees.