Czech PM Fiala is playing with fire

Czech Republic's Prime Minister Petr Fiala holds a speech at the Parliament in Prague, Czech Republic, Wednesday, June 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
By M B
5 Min Read

Maybe the Czech ruling party has some devilish public opinion poll that recommends keeping quiet, or they believe it is better to do nothing than ruin something. Otherwise, it is not quite possible to explain the passivity of Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala’s government which is facing the highest inflation and cost of living crisis in the country’s modern history.

Of course, Fiala’s government did not bring about inflation. The current difficulties result from the paralysis of economic and social life brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic in every European country. In Czechia, however, inflation has reached some of its highest levels compared to other EU countries. The wasteful policy of Andrej Babiš, who bought social peace for 900 billion koruna thrown into the economy over two years, undoubtedly had a considerable impact. It is also a fact that Fiala’s government has not caused the Russian aggression in Ukraine, which is accelerating rising inflation. However, this is no excuse for incomprehensible political passivity on the domestic scene.

It is no secret that Fiala’s government did not arm itself with economic experts, instead it chose political figures to make up the cabinet. That is why it should be expected that in this relatively unprecedented economic situation, the prime minister — especially when he is not an economist himself — would establish the position of vice prime minister for economics. This vice prime minister would form an expert team and present a comprehensive economic program for difficult times. Of course, there are no miracle solutions. The government will eventually have to end up making cuts in the state budget, impose at least temporary tax increases, and will be unable to drive the inflationary spiral further by increasing benefits and wages.

Fiala is celebrating unquestionable successes in foreign policy. His government will have a European presidency, but the government must build trust domestically, as trust fuels the functioning of a healthy economy. The government must make it clear that it understands the situation, knows how to deal with it, and has a plan of action that will improve the country’s economic condition. We enjoyed the full power of political marketing under Andrej Babiš, but now we are going through the opposite extreme.

A corruption case involving a coalition partner

To make matters worse, one of the key parties in the governing coalition, the Mayors and Independents movement (STAN), is gradually coming apart. STAN has long succeeded in creating an image of a formation of competent mayors who know how to manage cities for the benefit of their citizens. Maybe most citizens need that, but many can also take care of themselves.

That STAN are primarily pragmatists, because to achieve the result, they must be able to negotiate with everyone. They are competent, but also omnipotent. The Pirates were first to feel that, as they joined the election coalition with STAN, and then just stared as the cunning Mayors erased them through organized ranked voting. One could guess a lot when the spiritual father and demiurge of the movement, the recently deceased Věslav Michalik, came out of the shadows. He could not resist the desire to play an active role. The information about the party’s covert funding emerged soon after.

Věslav Michalik was quite rich and made a lot of money without resorting to the 90s method of carrying cash in plastic bags. However, this is not the case with many other important officials of STAN. The raid on the Prague City Hall, after which the deputy mayor for STAN ended up in custody, is just another episode in the ongoing saga. The fall of the Minister of Education Petr Gazdík will not be the last of the highest political positions, and it is likely that the case will spread to other government parties as well.

This is not just a communal case and the failure of one individual, as Prime Minister Petr Fiala says in defense. Combined with the passivity to threatening inflation, which many may perceive as arrogance, it may soon be said, outside the circle of the Prague and Brno elites, that the new officials are stealing just as the ones before did and do not care for ordinary people.

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