Correspondent in Berlin
The medical report of the President of the Czech Republic, Milos Zeman, finally unblocked the formation of the government last night, after the elections held more than a month ago. Zeman, who suffers from chronic liver disease and was admitted to the intensive care unit of the Prague Military Hospital on the same election night, left the ICU yesterday and went to the ward, from where he made his first public statements since the elections and announced that he will order the formation of government to the winner, Petr Fiala.
Because he is a trusted man of the outgoing head of government, Andrej Babis, who lost the elections by a narrow margin of votes, it was feared for weeks that there was a maneuver behind this hospitalization that blocked the process of government formation, but in the interview given from the hospital bed to the radio station ‘Frekvence 1 ‘Zeman also said that Babis has no interest in repeating in office, which finally paves the way to Fiala.
On October 19, the Czech Senate had initiated the procedure to disqualify Zeman, given that his state of health prevented him from fulfilling his obligations the Presidency and those responsible for the lawsuit have not yet clarified whether the procedure will be interrupted. According to the medical report, his liver problems diminish the Czech president’s ability to absorb food and liquids at 77. What is already clear is that there are an agreement of five political parties to form a coalition of government headed by Fiala, leader of the Civic Democratic Party, and in which, in addition to the conservative SPOLU, there would also be the liberal alliance formed by the Pirate Party and the Independent Mayors Party (STAN).
This government would have 108 of the 200 seats that make up the Czech parliament. Babis, whose ANO party has governed the last legislature in coalition with the Social Democrats and the support in the parliamentary votes of the Communists, is considering the possibility of retiring from politics. Suspicions of fraud in the management of European funds and several cases of conflict of interest weigh on the agro-industrial magnate.
Fiala is a 57-year-old historian and political scientist who has managed to assemble a broad-spectrum coalition united solely by the desire to oust Babis from power. His government program foresees public pension and salary increases, a debt containment program and a review of relations with Russia and China, to mitigate conflicts and increase commercial partnership with these two powers.
In the coalition agreement it has reached with its partners, the Foreign Ministry remains in the hands of the Pirate Party, an appointment that will surely strain the Czech Republic’s relations with its neighbors in the Visegrad Group, a bloc of which Prague has been a part along with Poland, Hungary and Slovakia. While Fiala has frequently added to the content and tone of the Visegrad Group’s statements, the Pirate Party is a traditional censor of the Hungarian prime minister, the ultra-nationalist Viktor Orbán. In the previous conversation that President Zeman had with Fiala, he gave the go-ahead to the coalition, but reserved the right to approve or reject his list of ministers. They both hope that the new government can take office before Christmas. “We renew the tradition of a Havelian foreign policy, including support for cooperation and development,” says the text of the agreement, in a reference to Václav Havel’s policy.
Negotiations to form a coalition have lasted for four weeks and have set twelve government priorities, among which the brake on the debt stands out, which since 2019 has gone from 30% of GDP to 50%, due to the efforts of the State to mitigate the effects of the economic paralysis that the pandemic forced. In addition to the fiscal deficit, which will exceed 7% by the end of the year, it faces high inflation and a new wave of coronavirus that is increasing the rates of infections in the territory. Fiala wants Brussels to recognize nuclear energy as clean energy and plans to install solar panels in 100,000 houses during the current legislature.