Prague – Czech President Milos Zeman has appointed a new cabinet led by billionaire Prime Minister Andrej Babis following more than eight months of political instability after the October elections.
Wednesday’s hard-fought coalition agreement between Babis’ centre ANO party and the Czech Social Democratic Party (CSSD) comes after months of negotiating.
However, with just 93 of 200 seats in the Chamber of Deputies, the minority government will have to count on the support of a communist party that has remained only in the shadows of national politics since their rule ended with the Velvet Revolution in 1989.
Staunchly anti-migrant, Babis has long rejected EU migrant quotas, while the Czech Republic was sued last year by the European Commission along with Hungary and Poland for their refusal to accept any.
“I promise to you and to all citizens that our government will fight for the safety of our people, not only in our country, but above all, I will fight illegal migration and fight for our interests in Europe,” Babis said thanking the pro-Russian president this morning.
Noted for their close relationship, Zeman has given the Slovak-born Babis ample time to form a government, renewing his bid as caretaker prime minister twice since, while his minority government lost a confidence vote in January.
Most of the parties represented in parliament have shunned Babis due to criminal charges he is facing over an alleged fraud of EU subsidies worth $2.5m a decade ago.
He has explicitly denied the charges and the subsidiary that is a part of the Agrofert conglomerate he owns last week agreed to voluntarily return the funds.
The new minority government will face a mandatory confidence vote sometime in July.
“I think the chance of this cabinet succeeding [in the vote] is very high because they have the support of the communist party and the process is relatively open,” Lubomir Kopecek, a professor of political sciences at Masaryk University in Brno, told Al Jazeera.
“At the same time, nobody knows how long this cabinet will last as there are issues over whether they can coexist. If you look at the beginning of the coalition talks, there was already a lot of fighting over nominations … and could be the first of big problems that may continue.”
But his troubles do not end there as the prime minister has fought a long-running dispute with Slovakia over his registration as an agent of the StB, Czechoslovakia’s communist-era police.
Earlier this month, he filed a lawsuit against Slovakia over the matter at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg after his appellate review petition was rejected.
The KSCM, the communist party, has thus far shown a willingness to work with Babis, but they have also expressed strong disagreements on particular issues including support for foreign missions abroad.
They are also asking for representation on the supervisory board of electricity producer CEZ, which is the biggest state-controlled firm in the country.
“Andrej Babis has repeatedly promised in the past that his government will be a government of experts. However, reality shows that the main qualification for ministers in the new semi-communist government must be loyalty to Andrej Babis and Zeman,” Petr Fiala, president of the liberal-conservative Civic Democratic Party (ODS) tweeted in advance of the appointments on Wednesday.
“This is bad news for the whole of the Czech Republic,” Fiala added.