President Miloš Zeman has said he will appoint Social Democrat leader Bohuslav Sobotka prime minister within a few days. Zeman said that Sobotka had fulfilled all the conditions that he had laid down. He added in the interview with the Reuters news agency that it was highly realistic the Cabinet would be created by the end of the month. The head of state repeated that he still has misgivings over the proposed list of ministers in the likely three-way coalition. Zeman is expected to explain his stance in a press conference ahead of a meeting with Sobotka on Friday afternoon. Sobotka has stressed there should be no delay approving the cabinet once he is named prime minister.
Though the ink is long dry on a coalition deal and cabinet posts agreed on by the three parties concerned, the path to a new Czech government remains unclear. There has been speculation that the president may reject some ministerial candidates – and could even try to force the nascent coalition to accept some of his own nominees.
Czech university rectors have rejected a proposal that professors should
be appointed by the speaker of the Senate. The idea surfaced at a meeting
of President Miloš Zeman with the upper house speaker, Milan Štěch, on
Tuesday. The rectors said it would be in breach of the Czech university
act. The outgoing government is set to discuss the issue on Wednesday, with
the cabinet in favour of handing the powers to the education minister,
according to the Czech News Agency.
Until last year, professors were appointed by the president. However, Mr Zeman objected to the system when he refused to appoint one of his critics as professor. The president and the education minister then reached a deal under which the authority to appoint professors would be transferred to the minister.
President Miloš Zeman will address the political situation in the Czech Republic in a news conference on Friday, ahead of a planned meeting with Social Democrat leader and likely next prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka, the president’s office said in a statement. Mr Sobotka is to formally present the president with the coalition agreement reached by the Social Democrats, ANO and Christian Democrats, as well as with a list of cabinet nominees. The president’s office has not revealed details of Mr Zeman’s news conference but the president is expected to voice his objections to a number of ministerial candidates.
The supervisory body of the public broadcaster Czech TV on Wednesday rejected a complaint by some of the station’s reporters over alleged censorship. The reporters complained that Czech TV’s news coverage was distorted in favour of Miloš Zeman during the presidential election last year, a process which allegedly continued even after Zeman was elected president. The supervisory body said however, the coverage was objective, did not breach the law and no interference by the station’s managers could be confirmed.
One proposed cabinet member who is not popular with the president, senator Jiří Dienstbier, has rejected speculation he could lead the Social Democrats’ campaign for European elections later this year. Mr. Dienstbier is in the frame to become minister without portfolio and a member of the government’s legislative council. He told Czech Radio on Tuesday that if he were to leave for Brussels the move would be perceived as the Social Democrats surrendering to Mr. Zeman. Other proposed ministers who the president may attempt to block are Lubomir Zaorálek, set to take the foreign affairs portfolio, and Martin Stropnický, in line for defence.
The chairman of the Social Democrats, Bohuslav Sobotka, has told reporters that he is set to meet President Miloš Zeman on Friday. The likely next prime minister has called on the head of state to implement the steps necessary for the formation of a new government as soon as possible. Mr. Sobotka, who cancelled his programme for Tuesday after coming down with a cold, will present Mr. Zeman with copies of the coalition agreements that he and the leaders of ANO and the Christian Democrats have just signed. The Social Democrats chief on Monday called on the president to name him prime minister as soon as possible. There has been speculation that Mr. Zeman may attempt to refuse some ministerial nominees.
After a New Year’s lunch with the president on Tuesday, the chairman of the Senate, Milan Štěch, indicated that Mr. Zeman did have a problem with some nominees for ministerial posts. Mr. Štěch told the news site novinky.cz that the president had “comments” on more than one person, while all three parties in the emerging coalition were concerned. Lower house speaker Jan Hamáček, who was also invited to the Prague Castle meal, said the head of state was likely to make his position clear himself.
Environment activists have criticized the nomination of Richard Brabec to the post of environment minister in the new government. Brabec, who is nominated by the ANO party, is actively engaged in the chemicals and forest industries and in the years between 2005 and 2011 served as financial director at the chemicals plant Spolana, which appears on Arnica’s list of major polluters. He is moreover still on the company’s board of directors. Jan Pinos of the environment movement Duha says Brabec’s nomination to the post of environment minister presents a blatant clash of interests and borders on the absurd.
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