Monday, November 29, 2021

A New Prime Minister

As of yesterday, Czech Republic has a new prime minister.  Petr Fiala, the chairman of the Civic Democratic Party and head of the SPOLU alliance, was appointed as the new prime minister by President Miloš Zeman.

The new prime minister is a Brňák meaning that he's from Brno.  The country's first prime minister from Brno.  He was born here.  He studied history and Czech language at Masaryk University and in 2002 he became the country's first professor of political science.  In 2004 he was the dean of Masaryk's Faculty of Social Studies and became head of the entire university.  

In 2012 he was the Minister of Education, Youth and Sports.  In 2013 he was elected to the Chamber of Deputies and in 2014 he became chairman of the Civic Democratic Party (ODS).


SPOLU, the Together coalition, is made of the Civic Democratic Party, the Christian Democrats (KDU-ČSL) and TOP 09.  SPOLU won the recent general election with the ANO party coming in second followed in third place by an alliance between the Pirate party and the Mayors and Independents party (STAN).  In fourth place was the Freedom and Direct Democracy party (SPD) which is anti-EU.  SPOLU took 108 of the 200 seats in the Chamber of Deputies.  No other party gained enough votes to earn a seat which is why the Communist party is out.

SPOLU signed an agreement with the Pirate and STAN alliance to create a new majority government with Petr Fiala as the leader.  


Premiér, or ministerský předseda, is the prime minister who is the head of the government of the Czech Republic.  The prime minister is the most powerful office as they lead the executive branch of government, chairs the cabinet and selects the cabinet ministers.  

The Czech President selects the prime minister whose term is four years and there are no terms limits.  Well, sort of.  Czechland is a parliamentary democracy so the prime minister and their government are accountable to the Chamber of Deputies.  The prime minister is usually the leader of the largest political party, or a coalition, in the Chamber of Deputies.  So it's pretty straight forward who the president will select as prime minister.    

The Czech Constitution states that the prime minister was gain and maintain the confidence of Parliament. As soon as the prime minister looses the the support of the majority of the Chamber of Deputies, the prime minister is forced to resign and the president must select a new prime minister.  So there's no guarantee that a prime minister's term will last the full four years.

The Czech president is the country's head of state, represents the country internationally and is commander-in-chief of the military.  As the prime minister runs the executive government, the president's role is mostly ceremonial.  The president is responsible for appointing the prime minister but it's pretty straight forward that the PM is the leader of the largest party, or the largest coalition, in the Chamber of Deputies.  However the president is responsible to appoint members of the Czech National Bank and to nominate justices to the Constitutional Court, but this is subject to Senate approval.  In Czechland, "professor" is the highest academic degree and the title is appointed by the president, but countersigned by the prime minister.

The Czech Statistical Office reported that more than 65% of eligible voters participated in the election about seven weeks ago.  This is the highest turnout in a legislative election since 1998.

The now former prime minister was Andrej Babiš and he held the role from 2017 to now.  Prior to that, from 2014 to 2017, he was the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance.

He entered politics 2012 by forming his own political party - ANO 2011.  "ANO" stands for Akce nespokojených občanů, the Action of Dissatisfied Citizens.  "Ano" is also the Czech word for "yes".  

Andrej Babiš is from Slovakia.  He moved to Czech Republic after the Velvet Revolution.  He was a businessman prior to entering politics and is the second richest man in Czechland.

He is the oldest and wealthiest person to ever become prime minister.  He was the country's first prime minister to not be from the ODS or ČSSD parties.  He was the first prime minister who was born outside of the Czech Republic.  He is the first to hold dual citizenship and the first whose native language isn't Czech.

He has Czech and Slovak dual citizenship.  One of the things that came out of the Velvet Divorce was that anyone who was a citizen of the Czech and Slovak Federative Republic on 31 December 1992, could chose if they wanted to be a citizen of either the new Czech Republic or the new Slovak Republic.  This is called "declaration".  In 2000, he obtained Czech citizenship by declaration, but he maintained his Slovak citizenship by descent as his parents are Slovak citizens.

This is still something that's odd to me.  In the U.S., you can't be President unless you were born a citizen, and you can't hold dual citizenship either.  The best case of this is probably Madeline Albright when she was Secretary of State.  In the US, the order of succession for the President is (1) the Vice-President, then (2) the Speaker of the House, (3) the President pro tempore of the Senate, followed by (4) the Secretary of State.  Since Madeline Albright wasn't born a U.S. citizen she was not eligible to become a presidential successor.

Babiš is Slovak, with Czech citizenship.  In my head I just can't understand how you can be the leader of a country when you weren't born a citizen.  Or how do you ensure that the leader is working in the best interest of the country when he holds citizenship, and loyalty, to another country?  But that's just one of the differences between the Czech and American systems.

One of the many controversies about him was that during the 1980s, he was an StB agent.  Documents at the National Memory Institute in Slovakia show that Babiš collaborated with the StB under the code name agent Bureš.

He was accused of illegally obtaining €2 million of EU subsidies designed for small businesses by concealing his ownership of a company that received funds.

On 16 November 2019, the Million Moments for Democracy protest group held a protest demonstration against Babiš that was attended by over 250,000 people which was the largest protest since the Velvet Revolution.

The national debt in 2020 was 367,4 billion Kč (over $15 billion) which is the largest in the country's history.  In spite of all of the controversies around Babíš he's still leaving with a 30% approval rating.

The new prime minister has promised to reform and stabilise the growing national debt.

In July 2022, the Czech Republic will assume the 6-month Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

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