Prague, Czech Republic – Milos Zeman has finally agreed to accept the resignation of Minister of Culture Antonín Stanek as of tomorrow, July 31, seemingly putting an end to a political saga that has been dragging on for months.
Since May, Zeman had refused to accept the resignation of M. Stanek, forced to step down after facing a backlash for his decision to fire two prominent directors of Czech cultural institutions, including the head of Prague’s National Gallery.
Even though Prime Minister Andrej Babis had officially requested the head of state to sign off on his resignation, and the president is legally bound to comply in such cases, Milos Zeman stood his ground over the course of countless meetings during the summer gathering the different protagonists.
Many argued that Zeman was overstepping his prerogatives, while the Senate decided to present a motion – unlikely to pass – to charge Zeman of violating the Constitution for refusing to accept the resignation of the Culture Minister.
This political saga brought the Czech government on the brink of collapse, as the Social Democratic Party (CSSD), a junior coalition partner of the ruling ANO party, threatened to quit the government if Zeman didn’t appoint their pick as the new Culture Minister, claiming it violated their coalition agreement with ANO.
The saga, however, might not be over, as it’s still unclear whether President Zeman will accept to appoint, in Stanek’s stead, the candidate put forward by the Social Democrats, CSSD vice-chairman Michal Šmarda. He said he will decide on the matter by mid-August.
The CSSD, meanwhile, has agreed to postpone its ultimatum, initially due to expire this month, and wait for Zeman’s decision before choosing whether or not to stay in the government.
According to analysts, Zeman has been using this political crisis to extend his influence beyond the usual institutional powers bestowed on a Czech head of state, dictate the terms and appear as the ultimate power-broker.
“Zeman is manufacturing this crisis because he knows the parliamentary parties are too weak to oppose him”, according to political analyst Jiri Pehe.