What is a chance of survival for new Czech coalition?

Read few comments.

Questions:

1. With 111 MPs it is a solid majority for new Czech coalition in the parliament – but how would you evaluate the chance that this coalition will last, what could be the biggest problem(s) for the members of the coalition?

2. Would you say that this coalition somehow has a potential to change (for better or worse) the Czech Republic?

Answers:

Seán Hanley, Senior Lecturer in East European Politics, University College London

1. I think its apparently handsome majority will almost certainly be quickly eroded over time as the ANO parliamentary is likely to be relatively unstable given the newness of the party.

In this respect, I think the dynamics will resemble those with the Necas government. However, ANO’s parliamentary group less likely to spectacularly implode in the manner of VV.

Divisions within the Social Democrats, presidential interference and the huge risk of conflicts of interest scandals in connection with ANO/Babis/Agrofert will also be very undermining.

As the coalition is in effect a kind of Grand Coalition, there is also a risk of internal conflict if ANO proves – or decides – to be more ideologically right-wing which could generate internal conflict. There always a possibility that if ANO decides it wants to become the main party of the right Babis might the try to pull the plug in the coalition and benefit from early elections.

The government will, however, benefit from the opposition being more divided than was the case under Necas.

My best guess would be that the government would possibly not survive a full term, but might prove relatively functional for most of it, albeit possibly with a diminished majority.

2. It has a vague government programme and little obvious sense of political mission, so I doubt it would achieve more than patchy or partial improvements in certain policy areas.

On the other hand, as a kind of de facto Grand Coalition with a centrist programme the coalition does represent the kind of political position that the majority of Czech voters repeatedly vote for and, realistically, despite what politicians claim improvements in politics do tend to happen patchily and incrementally.

Andrew Roberts, Associate Professor of Political Science, Northwestern University

1. I think it has a reasonable chance of survival. While the parties do disagree on some important issues, I think that they are pragmatic and unideological enough that they will be able to find compromises. The two major problems I see are the weak economy – which makes things difficult for any coalition – and the lack of experience of most of the MPs from ANO. Hopefully they will not be like the members of Veci Verejne.

2. I am always hopeful that good leaders can do something positive. It will be interesting to see how Babis in particular will behave. He certainly has enough money to ignore the typical pressures on a politician. On the other hand, he doesn’t have much experience with the kind of bargaining that is necessary to get good policies passed and I worry how able his party’s MPs are.

Dariusz Kałan, Central Europe analyst, Polish Institute of International Affairs

Well, the pessimistic scenario says that it will be somehow sort of déjà vu of the Nečas time. So, the government will be created by three parties: the big old one, the small responsible one and the political-business-media project. The leader of the biggest partner will become the new prime minister, but his leadership qualities are doubted even in his own party. The relationship with the president should be equally turbulent, too.

And, honestly, it could be even worse than it was when the ODS-TOP 09-VV coalition was in power, because of two things. Firstly, the differences in economic agendas of the current coalition partners seem to be bigger than before; especially between ČSSD and ANO 2011, which actually have quite contradictory economic goals. As the situation in economy is worsening, this may soon become the crucial pillar of disagreement.

Secondly, the current president’s willing to interfere in both domestic policy and balance of power within the social democratic party is also stronger. Miloš Zeman will be much more incommodious player than Václav Klaus. Unlike Klaus, he has no strong interest in foreign policy, and hence his attention should be paid in a much greater degree to a domestic agenda.

And the optimistic scenario? The only positive thing I can indicate is the potential stability of the government that can last in the current configuration for years, as Nečas’ did. None of the coalition partner is yet interested in having new elections. They will be probably continuing in this relationship due to particular interests. But no moral revolution, no deep changes are expected to be conducted.

Katya Kocourek, Central Europe Analyst, Economist Intelligence Unit in London

1. The prospects for political stability in the short term are seemingly good, given the 111-seat majority that the three parties hold in the 200-seat Chamber of Deputies. However, the risk for further instability in the mediu term remains high. The first uncertainty comes from the role to be assumed by the Czech president, Milos Zeman, who could delay the ratification of the new government and therefore potentially destabilise the government at the start of its political life. Looking ahead, the main uncertainty concerns ANO 2011, which is largely made up of independents, and may become factionalised. This could also serve to destabilise the government once it is in power. Critical to the survival of the party as one unit is the role of its leader, Andrej Babis. This is where Mr Babis will come to play a significant role as a political linchpin. He will be the key person to watch on the political scene over the next 12-18 months, as the post-election landscape will test ANO 2011’s ability to develop an electoral base and put down local roots, especially outside Prague. This aside, the fact that the CSSD and KDU know each other well, having cohabited briefly during the CSSD-led coalition of 2002-04, increases the chances of survival for this government.

2. The situation remains fluid and unstable, when has been the case since last June, which the previous centre-right government collapsed. The longer than expected duration of the technocratic government led by Jiri Rusnok, and the president’s endorsement of it, creates the precedent of more short-lived coalition governments followed by technocratic governments in the future. The likelihood of coalition governments serving their full terms has therefore significantly decreased in the last 12 months. So, there is great potential for more political instability over the medium term.

Kevin Deegan-KrauseAssociate Professor, Department of Political Science, Wayne State University

1. We saw with the last government that the stability of a coalition doesn’t always relate to its size if there are internal problems within the parties. CSSD faces significant internal struggles and ANO is an unknown quantity. I have no reason to think the party cannot hold together, but I also have no reason to think that it can.

2. Policy may shift mildly to the left but not that far. It’s hard to imagine all three of the coalition partners coming out of this government significantly unscathed. Either CSSD or ANO or both may suffer, as incumbents often do.

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