De facto Public Affairs (VV) chairman Vít Bárta (left), who stood down as transport minister, is now pressing PM Petr Nečas to include more VV members in his cabinet
Battling Czech government coalition parties will try to resolve a simmering dispute over the share out of Cabinet posts on Tuesday after failing to come up with a deal on Sunday.
Leaders of the three governing parties (the so-called K9) will now meet ahead of key votes on health and tax reforms in the lower house of Parliament on Tuesday to try and put the coalition on a more stable course. “The situation should finally be clear on Tuesday,” Civic Democrat (ODS) Prime Minister Petr Nečas said following Sunday’s two-hour session.
The coalition is still trying to heal deep divisions that emerged during a corruption scandal over “cash for loyalty” payments by the de-facto head of the smallest party Public Affairs (VV) Vít Bárta in April. Bárta stood down as transport minister in the Cabinet makeover that followed. Party chairman Radek John left the Interior Ministry for the post of new government anti-corruption Czar, but he quit the job in a dispute with Nečas over whom he could appoint as one of his deputy ministers.
But with its ministerial ranks in the Cabinet halved to two, VV is now demanding that its quota of ministers is topped up and that heads should roll at ministries head by coalition partners ODS and TOP 09. During the height of the coalition crisis, VV threatened to walk out of the government leaving it without a majority in the lower house and that threat still lingers during the current tension.
Bárta warned in Saturday’s edition of the daily Právo that it VV did not get two more ministerial posts then it would quit the government. Recently re-elected party number two, first deputy chairwoman Karolína Peake, described the ultimatum as unnecessary and unfortunate. John on Sunday said the situation within the coalition was “serious.”
Tuesday’s talks have been timed ahead of first votes in the lower house on bills on health and tax reform, which the government regards as crucial for its ongoing program to curb public spending and push through sweeping changes to the pensions and health systems.
Nečas has pledged to link votes on the upcoming reform measures with a vote of confidence in the government. But he is still seeking the exact formula for how to do this without playing into the hands of the center-left opposition and further undermining the coalition’s fragile stability.
If party leaders can shore-up the coalition then it should easily be able to muster a majority even though several VV deserts have whittle down its initial 118 total of votes in the 200-seat lower chamber of Parliament.