The Czech Government, led by Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka since early 2014, has announced its resignation today. The move announced by the Social-Democratic Prime Minister followed growing scandals related to alleged tax evasion frauds by the Finance Minister, Mr. Andrej Babiš, who chairs the coalition business-style party called ANO. Mr. Babiš was surprised by the Prime Minister’s move and called him “a coward”.
This move needs to be understood in the context of the pre-election campaign, as the regular parliamentary elections are scheduled for October 2017.
Right now, there are three viable options for what is coming up next. The next move is now to be made by the Czech President Miloš Zeman, who constitutionally appoints the government and accepts its resignation.
1.) The Czech President might not accept the resignation as the elections are supposed to take place in five months and the cabinet might continue to function in the current form, possibly with Mr. Babiš leaving. Or, the President might accept the resignation and would ask the government to rule till the elections in October. This is a possible scenario, given that President Zeman supports Mr. Babiš and it would give him a potential boost before the parliamentary elections. Harsh campaign is expected, coalition parties might change.
2.) The President might accept the resignation and appoint his own government, which would probably not receive a trust vote by the parliament, running the country for a few months without support of the parliament. This rare and highly controversial move was already used by President Zeman in 2013.
3.) It seems unlikely, but the President might possibly call for snap elections to take place even earlier than in October. It is probably not going to happen as it would not serve the interest of the President or any of the major players. Overall, no major policy shifts can be expected from the Czech cabinet in the next five plus months, until the new government is formed.
Jakub Janda is head of the Kremlin Watch Program and deputy director at the European Values Think-Tank, based in Prague. In 2016, he was tasked by Czech security and intelligence institutions to consult on the “Influence of Foreign Powers” chapter within the Audit of National Security conducted by the Czech government.