Czech gov’t pledges to defeat ČSSD filibuster over reforms

PM Petr Nečas to use all legal means necessary to break the opposition ČSSD filibuster aimed at delaying vote on reform package

Politics & Policy|Economy
Brian Kenety | 03.11.2011
Czech PM Petr Nečas says the gov’t may be forced to employ little used (but legal) methods to break the blockade

Czech Prime Minister Petr Nečas (Civic Democrats, ODS) has said he will use all legal means necessary to bring an end to the main center-left opposition Social Democrats (ČSSD) filibuster aimed at blocking a vote on the coalition government’s reform package.

Nečas said the coalition would employ all the parliament’s rules of procedure in that effort, including some that are “possibly less traditional than usual,” the Czech News Agency (ČTK) reported.

The ČSSD began its delaying tactics on Tuesday by taking advantage of the fact that every MP has the right to speak on a given issue twice for up to ten minutes; all of the party’s MPs are taking the full allotted time to postpone the votes on the government’s 15 reform and austerity bills. Party chairman Bohuslav Sobotka has said the proposed reforms to the pension, healthcare, welfare and tax systems would bring the country to its knees, on par with Greece.

The lower house of Parliament (Chamber of Deputies) session was held overnight from Tuesday to Wednesday and suspended at around 3:00 a.m. on Thursday. Sticking points included a move to limit state support for the popular construction savings scheme (which took up some 15 hours of debate) and the state budget for 2012 — which the ČSSD allowed a vote on so as to avoid having a provisional budget for next year.

The lawmakers approved the 2012 state budget draft in the first reading, locking in a 22 percent deficit cut, as part of the prime minister’s plan to trim the fiscal gap. Nečas has pledged to cut the shortfall to less than the EU limit of 3 percent of economic output, with the budget plan setting the shortfall limit at Kč 105 billion, compared with a gap of Kč 135 billion planned for 2011. 

The coalition government aims to narrow the broader public-finance shortfall to 3.5 percent of GDP in 2012 from the targeted 4.6 percent in 2011. The budget plan is based on an assumption of 2.5 percent economic growth next year although the Finance Ministry on Oct. 31 cut the outlook to 1 percent — for this reason, the ČSSD spoke against it for 10 hours and criticized it for overstating both GDP growth and revenue, while the widest-circulation daily Mláda fronta Dnes called it a “virtual budget.” 

Meanwhile, the three-party coalition (ODS, TOP 09 and the centrist Public Affairs, VV), will look to lump all reform bills within a single point in order to reduce the possible 15 protracted parliamentary debates to only one discussion, ČTK said, and wants the house to be in session over the weekend. 

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