Czech PM Sobotka dissolves government
With six months to go before the regular parliamentary elections take place Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has announced the resignation of his centre-left government. He named the investigation of Deputy Prime Minster Andrej Babiš on suspicions of tax evasion as the reason for the surprise move. Can Sobotka improve his chances in the upcoming election with this strategy?
Sobotka eyeing the polls
Prime Minister Sobotka was between a rock and a hard place, Sme explains:
“By dismissing Babiš as finance minister he would have made him a martyr. If he had kept him in the government he would have confirmed his own image as a weak leader. In both cases Babiš would have come out smelling of roses before the elections. ... Sobotka and the Social Democrats knew from their first day in office in January 2014 just what sort of a person they were dealing with with Babiš. But as long as the elections were still far off that wasn't an issue. The Czech Republic has the lowest unemployment rate in the EU, it has reduced its debt, and salaries are rising. Now, however, as they have plummeted in the polls just half a year before the regular elections, the Social Democrats have decided to put all their eggs in one basket: waging an all-out campaign against their former coalition partner.”
The establishment versus the anti-politicians
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka is bringing the long-standing conflict with Finance Minister and ANO boss Andrej Babiš to a head, Der Standard observes:
“On the one hand we have Sobotka, the pragmatist, who feels most at home in the proximity of the social democratic mainstream. He is being challenged by billionaire Babiš, who still talks of 'the politicians' as if he weren't one himself. What is going on in Prague right now is just another round in the establishment versus the anti-politicians match which is playing out in so many states now. … Whether Sobotka's move was strategically sound remains to be seen. But it certainly won't do any harm to have more clarity about his relationship with Babiš in the upcoming election race.”
Will President Zeman have the last laugh?
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has little chance of winning against Andrej Babiš, Hospodářské noviny likewise concludes:
“Everything now depends on how President Miloš Zeman reacts. The initial reactions from Prague Castle already show that Zeman will happily do anything that hurts Sobotka. ... Zeman is good at solving political crises, sometimes with a very creative approach. He demonstrated this in 2013 when he appointed the government he wanted against parliament's will. This time too, he will no doubt present himself as the decisive political player, as a true statesman. If he acts with caution the public will admire him for it. That would make things even harder for his two main rivals in next spring's presidential election. This would be the worst-case scenario for Sobotka: He himself would have to leave the government while Zeman, whom he really doesn't like, remains in the castle as president.”