Change of government in the Czech Republic: further puzzles about sick president

Status: October 18, 2021 12:40 p.m.

In the Czech Republic everything boils down to a change of government. But is President Zeman able to convene the new parliament? He’s still in hospital, diagnosis unknown.

By Peter Lange, ARD Studio Prague

In the middle of last week Andrej Babis presented himself as a candidate indirectly legitimized by the president for the office of prime minister. During the last conversation on the Sunday after the election, Milos Zeman said that he would entrust him, Babis, with forming a government when the time came. However, Babis left it open whether he would accept the order.

Peter Lange
ARD studio Prague

There is now clarity about it: “This anti-Babis five-man bloc is stable. I have no problem with it. We are handing over to this new coalition and going into the opposition,” he said. And addressed to all those who did not quite trust this new turn of events, Babis asserted: “We will certainly not play any games. We are ready to hand over the government without any obstruction.”

The coalition agreement should be ready in early November

This means that the mandate to form a government is actually heading towards Petr Fiala. The head of the ODS is already working with the five parties of the previous center-right opposition on a coalition agreement, which should be ready for signature on November 8th. The main focus of a government led by him: the rehabilitation of the budget. “We cannot answer for a budget with a deficit of 376 billion crowns. We are talking about savings of 100 billion. But it is important that we save on the state and not on the people,” stressed Fiala.

What about the president?

November 8th should then also be the day on which the new parliament is constituted, convened by the President. However, he is still in the intensive care unit of the Prague Military Hospital.

Many people in the Czech Republic wonder how sick is President Zeman.

PICTURED: MARTIN DIVISEK / EPA-EFE / REX / Shutt

Last week, Radek Vondracek, the still incumbent chairman of the Chamber of Deputies, presented a paper allegedly signed by Zeman, which will convene parliament on November 8th. Thereupon a storm of criticism arose because Vondracek and Zeman’s office boss Mynar had reached the president’s bedside without the permission of the doctors and had given his impression of the patient’s condition afterwards.

The secrecy of Prague Castle, the official residence of the President, together with many indiscretions, has ensured that the whole country believes it knows what Zeman is suffering from: severe liver disease – which for most of them sounds very plausible given the President’s notorious predilection for the high-proof.

Senate President calls for an opinion from the hospital

Milos Vystrcil, the President of the Senate, has now become too colorful. In a letter to the hospital, he asked Zeman’s doctors to clarify: “We are not interested in how sick he is or how he is cured, but rather whether he is able to carry out his duties.”

In any case, it is now certain that the alliance between Zeman and Babis has come to an end. Few people in Prague believe that the extremely wealthy billionaire will continue his political career in the opposition. It is speculated that Babis is now preparing to run for Zeman’s successor. An ex-head of government moving to Prague Castle has already happened twice.

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