VV publicly demands bigger say in coalition gov’t

Public Affairs (VV) has confirmed its leadership — and a tough stand in its bid for a greater share of power and posts with the coalition

Politics & Policy
Chris Johnstone | 30.05.2011
Radek John was confirmed as party leader with the conference setting out conditions for staying within the coalition government

The conference of junior Czech coalition government party Public Affairs (VV) has confirmed Radek John as its leader and set down markers for continuing in the coalition government.

John, who was returned as chairman in an internet vote of party members held during the week, was confirmed in the post with support from 169 of the 192 delegates present. Twenty-one delegates voted against with two abstentions. Karolína Peake was confirmed as the party’s first deputy chairwoman.

Delegates on Sunday voted in favor of a proposal from VV ministers and members of Parliament warning that the party would quit the fragile coalition if Prime Minister Petr Nečas (Civic Democrats, ODS) did not fulfill the coalition agreement by giving the party a “respectable position” within the government, did not end attacks on party leaders and did not deliver on the coalition’s anti-corruption strategy.

“Respectable position” in effect means more ministers within the government. VV’s original tally of four government ministers has been cut to just two following the resignation of former Transport Minister Vít Bárta during a loyalty for cash scandal which shook the government at the end of April. John left the Interior Ministry during the following Cabinet reshuffle to take up a new post as the government’s anti-corruption czar. He resigned from that post in protest when PM Nečas refused to allow him to bring over his former Interior Ministry deputy minister Michal Moroz.

VV now insist that they are two ministers short of what they were promised when the coalition was formed mid-2010 and have been pushing their original demand at the height of the April government crisis that under fire Defense Minister Alexandr Vondra (ODS), Agriculture Minister Ivan Fuksa (ODS) and Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek (TOP 09) resign. ‘If we do not get them [more ministers] then we will not support this government another minute.’

Barta, recognized as the party’s de-facto leader and paymaster, warned at the weekend conference, “if we do not get them [more ministers] then we will not support this government another minute.”

Speculation initially mounted that the party’s first deputy chairwoman, Peake, would be moved into the Justice Minister with ODS incumbent Jiří Pospíšil ejected, but such a powerful and strategically important ministry would be a big ask of the biggest coalition party, the ODS.

Attention has since switched to the likelihood that VV’s demands might at least partially be satisfied with the Environment Ministry. Environment Minister Tomáš Chalupa (ODS) is under pressure as his past as mayor of Prague’s 6 district returns to haunt him. Chalupa was mayor when the district signed an agreement with controversial investment firm Key Investments under which hundreds of millions of crowns were placed with it to manage. Cash was invested in non-tradable bonds with their value estimated at little better than nothing.

The government is to discuss on Wednesday how the coalition should continue amid new rifts between VV and its two bigger coalition partners about the shape of health reform. PM Nečas last week warned VV that if it could not agreed with the health reform package then it should quit the government. So far, VV has shown no signs of abandoning its resistance to the reforms with Nečas’ week-long deadline for a change of heart running out on Wednesday. 

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