Constitutional crisis erupts as Czech President rejects the Foreign Minister candidate

Photo: CNN Prima News

President Miloš Zeman announced on Friday that he would not appoint the proposed Foreign Minister, Jan Lipavský (Pirates), to the new government of the Czech Republic. Zeman clarified that the reasons for his decision are Lipavský’s low qualifications and personal opinions about important topics of foreign policy. He claims that, according to the Constitution, he is not obliged to accept every proposal that is submitted to him.

“Low qualifications. Unlike the other candidates, Mr. Lipavský has only completed a bachelor’s degree, and even though his final bachelor’s thesis was rated with the worst possible grade, “the president cited as the first reason for not appointing him. 

Among other reasons, he underlined his views on the foreign policy of the Czech Republic, including a distant approach towards the Visegrad group of nation cooperation and Israel. Lipavský had commented previously that the Visegrád members(Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia) agree on very few matters. Zeman sees this as a contradiction with the upcoming government statements. The President also does not approve Lipavský’s proposal that the next Sudeten German Days should be held on Czech territory.

According to Zeman, more candidates are not experienced, but he will appoint them. “Some of the candidates have shown that they have not dealt with the challenging issues of the ministries assigned to them in the past, which creates a risk of professional insufficiency. 

However, in order to contribute to the formation of the new government, the President of the Czech Republic will not refuse to sign the appointment of these ministerial candidates, but he will only draw the attention of the Prime Minister to the problem of their low experience and suitability for these positions.

On Friday, Fiala replied immediately, expressing his intention to take Zeman to the Constitutional Court over the issue.

“I take under consideration of today’s the President of the Republic.” “The Constitutional Court should once and for all resolve the issue of competencies regarding the appointment of new members of the government.”

Lipavský: The coalition stands with me

Photo: Vít Šimánek, ČTK

According to the candidate for head of Czech diplomacy, Jan Lipavský (Pirates), the coalition of SPOLU and PirStan, led by future Prime Minister Petr Fiala (ODS), stands with him and his nomination remains valid.

“My nomination for the post of foreign minister, which is also backed by the coalition, including Prime Minister Petr Fiala, is still valid, “he commented, reacting to Zeman’s statement.

“I represent and want to promote the coalition program of the upcoming government, which is based on the votes of the people in the elections. It is not possible to retreat from these principles. Citizens need to rely on the validity of the laws in this country, that we live in a parliamentary democracy and that their vote in elections is meaningful, “Lipavský said.

A dispute over the interpretation of the Constitution will follow

Unless future Prime Minister Petr Fiala proposes another candidate, which he does not intend to do, according to earlier statements, a dispute can be expected. Representatives of the coalition have already mentioned that they will file a competency lawsuit to the Constitutional Court, which should determine the president’s powers.

Experts and the president interpret the Constitution differently. According to Zeman, “the Constitution does not oblige the President of the Republic to accept every proposal that is submitted to him.” In contrast, according to constitutional lawyer Marek Antos, the president does not have the right to veto one candidate based on a personal or political decision.

However, the former Constitutional Court judge, Kateřina Šimáčková, who was appointed as a judge of the European Court of Human Rights on Monday, said that the final decision would not be a matter of days or weeks. “It is a court proceeding, so I do not expect the court to decide hastily. The parties will have time for preparation and specific deadlines to meet, like in any other case, Šimáčková mentioned.

Zeman had taken the opposite view in the past

Photo: Milan Malíček, Právo

In the past, Miloš Zeman has commented on how the President should proceed when appointing ministers, particularly in his role as Prime Minister of the Czech Social Democratic Party (ČSSD) government from 1998 to 2002. During its formation, he got into a dispute with President Václav Havel, who hesitated over some of Zeman’s proposed ministerial candidates.

“I am basing this on Article 68 of the constitution, which applies to everyone. This article clearly states that the president appoints members of the government on the proposal of the prime minister. As far as some kind of personal veto is concerned, I believe that would be contrary to the quoted Article 68, “Zeman stated in July 1998.