Update: On Sunday evening, following hours of negotiations, Babis reached a deal with the other two Social Democratic party co-chairmen to form a government. Czech Television says that there will be one cabinet for the Republic. The free, openly contested vote is expected to start this week.
Thanks, much to my wife’s horror, for informing me of the story the other day about the Czech Republic’s central election committee (SCC), charged with electing President Milos Zeman’s favourite for prime minister.
I had assumed the organisation’s job was simply to pick a candidate. But apparently not. Who needs a democratic choice, when there’s a plurality of plastic support for your chosen prime minister, inside a 27cm cube?
According to the Czech Media, the SCC has elected the candidate for prime minister not on his merits, but rather for his position in the election for the President of the Republic. In other words, the object of the election is not his or her performance as prime minister, but rather the position the individual is assumed by in the general political landscape.
My wife has noticed that I am offering little discretion to my enthusiasm for my country and for the Canadian experience. It’s my time to brag, so here it goes:
Canada has a top job: governor general. In the Czech Republic, there is a governorship that has a special place in the heart of the vote-hungry electorate: the government role.
It is called “ember prime minister”. At the end of the national election, the second round of electoral voters are invited to review the incumbent cabinet’s record with a vote of confidence. In the first round of voting on Wednesday, the Czech Republic’s voters snubbed Zeman’s favourite, Interior Minister Maros Sefcovic, choosing the Social Democratic leader Bohuslav Sobotka.
It was a tie between the two leading political actors. But taking a cue from tradition, the forum moved to a second round. On Friday, the other party, the Christian Democrat Willi Lipinski, decided to declare his support for Zeman, giving the president another chance. On Saturday, Zeman’s chosen prime minister, billionaire businessman Andrej Babis, called on the SCC to sanction Sobotka’s cabinet and so chose to enter a four-party cabinet with the president’s help.
Since voting on the country’s 10th representative in the Council of Heads of State takes place at the end of a leadership battle, Babis is accused of wanting to game the process so that he gets a second shot at the job and the cabinet he wants. This is a rather convenient argument for Zeman: he claimed that he chose Sobotka to defend him against accusations he was corrupt, because of “a strange chain of events that has not been understood.” He calls Sobotka’s refusal to enter a government “lack of political courage.”
All this – no wrongdoing, little self-doubt – is the situation of the occupants of my two roles: the governor general and the prime minister.