President’s aide to lead Czech government
The Czech Republic was thrown into a constitutional crisis on Tuesday (25 June) after President Miloš Zeman decided to create a technocratic government rather than allow three parties to form a majority government.
The country has been in the grip of political scandal and crisis for the past fortnight, since Petr Necas stepped down as prime minister after the arrest of two of his closest aides. Necas’s resignation automatically ended the three-party government that he had led since 2010.
The same three parties said on Tuesday that they had agreed to re-form a government under Miroslava Nemcová, with the support of 101 of the 200 members of parliament. Zeman, however, opted to name one of his advisers, Jirí Rusnok, as prime minister.
Rusnok says he will need two weeks to form his government. As a result, Necas will represent the Czech Republic at the European Council.
Zeman’s decision has so far united the political parties against him, including the party he once led, the Social Democrats. Its current leader, Bohuslav Sobotka, has joined other political leaders in calling for early elections. He described Zeman’s move as a pre-election ploy to bolster support for the party he formed in 2009, the eponymously named Strana Práv Obcanu – Zemanovci (Zeman-ite Party of Civic Rights). The party has never won a seat in either chamber of parliament.
State broadcaster row splits Greek coalition
The departure last week (21 June) of the small Democratic Left party from Greece’s ‘grand coalition’ has prompted a reshuffle in the government of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras. The coalition now consists of the two main parties, the centre-right New Democracy and the centre-left Pasok, which together hold a majority of 153 seats in the 300-member parliament.
Pasok leader Evangelos Venizelos, finance minister under the last centre-left administration of George Papandreou, has been brought back as deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs. This will no doubt strengthen the coalition, despite its slim majority in parliament, but, with Venizelos, the prime minister also gets a prickly and outspoken adversary who is a master schemer.
The three-party coalition broke apart over the abrupt shutting down of Greece’s state broadcaster ERT, engineered by Samaras without consultation, which enraged the Democratic Left as well as Pasok. The prime minister might be less likely to take such dramatic steps with Venizelos in such an important position.
Dimitris Avramopoulos, the previous foreign minister, takes over the defence portfolio. Kyriakos Mitsotakis, scion of a New Democracy dynasty, has been appointed to the post of minister for administrative reform, his first ministerial appointment and an important portfolio given the country’s ongoing fiscal crisis.
Hello and goodbye to Bulgarian leader?
Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski will attend his first European Council fearing that it may be his last. Street protests threaten to bring his government down, just as demonstrations toppled the previous government in February.
The protests began after the parliament, without debate, on 14 June made a 32-year-old media magnate and politician the head of the national intelligence service. Delyan Peevski, who had no security background, stepped down a day later, in part because of President Rosen Plevneliev’s call for his appointment to be reversed, but thousands – often tens of thousands – have come out onto the streets each day since.
The current government is broadly technocratic in nature, but its instability is advertised by its need both for the support of the ethnic-Turkish party – of which Peevski is a member – and on one vote from a far-right party, Ataka.
Ivan Krastev of the Sofia-based Centre for Liberal Strategies says the protests “show that there is a committed civil society which will no longer tolerate corporate takeover of public institutions, or unprincipled coalitions with nationalistic or irresponsible parties”.
Oresharski’s difficult introduction to the European stage was compounded on Friday (21 June) by José Manuel Barroso, the European Commission’s president, who pointedly said that “the most important institutions, the most important principles, they should not be put in question”.
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