Czech Republic – President appoints four justices

In January Miloš Zeman of the Party of Civic Rights – Zeman’s people (SPOZ) was elected president. He took office in March. This began a period of cohabitation because SPOZ is not represented in the government.

That said, the situation is beautifully complex. SPOZ was a break away party from the now opposition Czech Social Democratic Party (ČSSD). Now, SPOZ is not represented in the lower house, though it does have one senator. I do not know enough about Czech politics to be sure, but this does raise the issue of whether SPOZ is a ‘real’ party. If it is, then there is definitely cohabitation. If it isn’t, then it is an open question as to whether the president is ‘really’ partisan. If not, then there would not be a period of cohabitation. If he was not really partisan any more, the situation would be similar to the one in Slovakia where President Gašparovič was once partisan, but where his party disappeared leaving him as an independent, albeit one effectively supported by SMER.

Anyway, let us assume SPOZ is a real party. The government comprises ODS, TOP ’09, and still, as I understand it, LIDEM. The Senate is controlled by the ČSSD. Here’s the rub. Art. 84 of the constitution states that “The Justices of the Constitutional Court shall be appointed by the President of the Republic with the consent of the Senate.” Today, President Zeman nominated four new justices. What would the Senate do? Without any real partisan basis, would the president’s nominees be accepted?

Newspaper reports confirm that the justices were appointed, with support for the president’s candidates ranging from 61 of 72 votes case to 53. The newspaper speculates that this suggests the president is still able to gain support from the ČSSD, even though they parted on bad company.

Apparently, a further four judges will be appointed in the summer. So, the president will have the opportunity to test his support again soon.

1 thought on “Czech Republic – President appoints four justices

  1. Jan Morkes

    There are no good examples of party-leaders leaving their position in their party in Czech Rep. Zeman is ex-prime minister and ex-chairman of ČSSD and he left his position voluntarly in 2002. He broke with his party after some members declined to vote for him in indirect elections in 2003. Still, he has many supporters among the party members and voters of ČSSD and some of them supported him in 2013 even when ČSSD had its own presidential candidate for the first round of the elections. ČSSD officialy backed Zeman in the second round.

    They can cooperate, because they both criticise right-wing government, but many pundits raise the question about their future compatibility in the time after elections (which ČSSD is supposed to win). SPOZ is kind of pro-presidential party now. Their only senator was elected as member of ČSSD and their popularity depends only on Zeman (there is no other interesting politician in the party right now).

    What is good for Zeman, is that current leadership of ČSSD is not as charismatic as Zeman himself and is afraid of conflicts with new president 12 months before elections. Every fight could shift some voters to SPOZ. Therefore nobody expects serious problems with other nominees for constitutional judges.


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