Macro Analysis /
Czech Republic

Czech Republic: KSCM withdraws support to government

  • KSCM no longer trusts ANO, to support a no-confidence vote if other parties initiate it

  • Government to lose parliamentary majority without KSCM, making adoption of legislation very difficult

  • We expect the government to survive until Oct 8-9 election, mostly because there is very short time

Czech Republic: KSCM withdraws support to government
14 April 2021

The KSCM decided to withdraw support to the ANO-CSSD government, KSCM president Vojtech Filip told journalists on Tuesday evening (Apr 13). He said that the KSCM would not initiate a vote of no confidence in the cabinet, but it intends to support one if initiated by the opposition. The reason for the KSCM's decision is consistent behaviour of ANO, which has broken a lot of deals made during the years. The final straw appears to be the government's decision not to cut defence spending by CZK 10bn, even though it made a deal with the KSCM in exchange for their support for the 2021 budget bill late last year. However, the KSCM has argued that there were many other broken promises and that ANO could no longer be trusted.

Without the KSCM, the government is losing majority in the Chamber of Deputies, which will make passing legislation problematic, as deals with other opposition parties will need to be made. Furthermore, even if the KSCM remains neutral, the government still doesn't have a simple majority, due to defections of a couple of MPs over the years. It makes the government vulnerable to a vote of no confidence, which it may lose if opposition parties decide to rally against it. You can see a distribution of parliamentary seats below:

Government fall unlikely, given the short time to general election

We don't believe the government will fall, as there is not enough time until the general election on Oct 8-9. Some opposition parties, like the ODS, think that there should be an early election, which will undoubtedly benefit the opposition. However, forcing an early election, even after a successful vote of no confidence, is not that easy. An early election may be forced if the Chamber of Deputies votes for one with a majority of three fifths (Article 35.2 of the Constitution). Given the current distribution of seats, however, this means that the opposition will need ANO or CSSD MPs to flip, as the two parties hold 46% of all parliamentary seats.

Another option is to bring the government down and then force an early election after the Chamber fails to appoint a new government for three months (Article 35.1a). However, this makes timing relatively tight, as Article 35.3 prevents the Chamber from being dissolved within three months from the expiration of its term. The term of this Chamber started on Nov 20, 2017, so the cutoff line is Aug 22, 2021. Even if a vote of no confidence takes place within the next couple of weeks, the opposition will still need to wait three months before it can even request a dissolution of parliament, which means pulling the election only a month early in the best-case scenario (as some technical time to organise an election is necessary).

In both cases, the president plays a big role, as the Constitution reads the president may dissolve the Chamber if conditions are met, not that they should (the first sentence of Article 35.1). The incumbent president, Milos Zeman, is a staunch supporter of PM Andrej Babis, which means the opposition can expect no co-operation from him. There is also legal precedent for not triggering an early election when this condition is met, as Zeman didn't dissolve the Chamber back in 2018, when there was more than three months without MPs being able to appoint a new government, after a failed attempt for a minority ANO government in early 2018. While Zeman's actions were seen as politically biased, there was nothing to prevent Klaus from doing that. Thus, a president can delay an early election if they so wish, and we expect that Zeman will do everything in his power to keep Babis in power as long as he can.

Thus, we believe that the government will survive until the election, one way or another. We don't quite rule out a vote of no confidence, but it will be only for the sake of appearances, rather than a real attempt to bring the government down. We believe the opposition is fully aware that there is no point trying to force Babis out early, given that there are slightly less than six months until the general election on Oct 8-9. Instead, we expect opposition parties to make the government's life as miserable as they can in the remaining time to the election. In the end, it could benefit the opposition more than just attempt to bring down the government now, when an election is around the corner.