Czech government narrowly survives

As noted previously in the Czech Republic block here at F&V, the previous Czech parliamentary election resulted a tied result between the two pre-election alliances.

Last week, Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek’s three-party center-right ((Despite the Greens’ being one of those three. Topolanek heads the Civic Democratic Party, and the Christian Democrats are the other partner.)) government survived a no-confidence vote. The Prague Post news item, excerpted below, hints at (in the part I put in bold) how it is that a bloc of parties with exactly 50% of the seats is able to govern: some defectors from the opposition. ((Survival is a different matter: It takes a majority to oust the cabinet, and obviously the opposition does not have a majority either. But without the independent support, the cabinet could not pass legislation if the opposition united to, well, oppose.))

It was the opposition’s third attempt to topple the coalition government and despite its fragile majority in the lower house it was fairly clear from the start that the opposition’s chances of success were slim, largely thanks to three independents – former Social Democrat rebels who were expected to support the government. In the end only two of them did, but it was enough. The opposition fell three votes short of achieving its goal and, having done his mathematics, the prime minister looked supremely confident as he listened to criticism from the opposition benches. In fact he even made a point of leafing through the morning papers during the vote itself to show just how unconcerned he was.

Just another day in parliament…

Another excerpt from the article is a reminder that parliamentary governments can tolerate dissent on policy votes, but once it comes to survival, the dissidents’ calculation can change quite dramatically:

Thwarted by three of his own MPs during a Parliament debate on church restitutions on Tuesday, Mr. Topolánek was smarting from his unexpected defeat. Tuesday’s show of coalition unity in the lower house could not have come at a better time for him.

Just another week in parliamentarism.
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0 thoughts on “Czech government narrowly survives

  1. ‘Pre-election alliances’ isn’t quite correct – there were one. The coalition/opposition alignments were to some extent predicted in the press, it’s true, but the post-election situation was reasonably fluid. The Christian Democrats tried to ally with the Social Democrats at one point and the right-wing procilvitiy of the Czech Greens were to a considerable extent a product of the election campaign when they were ruthlessly targetted by the Social Democrats in an effort to push them below the threshold.

    You right, however, that this is just another day at the office in Czech politics. Indeed. there is something of a Czech traditional Social Democrat defectors propping up a minority centre-right government in such circumstances – same in 1996-7. As that episode shows, it’s their coalition partners the governing party really has to watch out for….
    Bulgaria, by the way, has a rather similarly fluid parliamentary situation with minority government fending off their feeble efforts at a vote of no confidence

  2. Sean, point taken that I may have overstated the “pre-electoralness” of the coalitions, but was the fluidity you refer to not a result of the 50:50 result? That is, if one of the blocs (however loose they might have been) had won a clear majority, would you think there still would have been a bargaining context in which parties from the opposite bloc were involved (at least as leverage for one partner to extract a better deal from the others)?

    (Who doesn’t love a good counterfactual!)

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