Czech leaders have been dealing with the fallout over a dispute over Cabinet minister, Antonin Stanek, but failed to resolve the issue on Thursday, July 11th. The Czech government could collapse over the ministerial position conflict as one party in the governing coalition is threatening to pull out.
The threat was made by the left-wing Social Democrats (CSSD) over the row. They are paired in a minority coalition with Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis’s populist ANO movement, which relies on the informal backing of the Communist Party to survive in parliament. The development would be significant since it took Babis months to find a way to form a government in the first place after his coming to power.
The CSSD is demanding the dismissal of its own Culture Minister, Antonin Stanek, who was criticised, among other things, over the recent firing of two directors of the state-run art galleries. According to AP, the controversial decisions were announced in April and met with a wave of protests.
Prime Minister Andrej Babis followed his partner party’s request and asked President Milos Zeman to replace Stanek in May, but Babis said after a meeting on July 11th that the president still remained unready to act.
Replacing a minister is generally a routine matter and the Czech Constitution says the president should comply with such requests from the prime minister. Constitutional court chairman, Pavel Rychetsky, on July 11th criticised Zeman's inactivity as "contradicting the constitutional order," AFP reported.
Zeman has not made fully clear why he is not acting on the request but has said the Constitution does not give him a deadline for doing so. The president has also expressed doubts whether the proposed new minister, Michal Smarda, can do the job.
The CSSD went as far as saying that the removal of Stanek, who they themselves had originally nominated, is a condition for them to stay in the governing coalition.
After the meetings on July 11th, CSSD chairman Jan Hamacek told reporters, “I’m not very optimistic about staying in the government.” He had just stepped out of talks with Babis and Zeman. Hamacek further said he had a replacement for Stanek in mind. He is set to meet again with Zeman later on Friday, July 12th. If the CSSD does decide to leave the coalition, several options open up, including an early election.