Czech president orders new prime minister after court ruling

Mirek Topolanek puts off resignation for two weeks after losing court case to avoid exit even though he ‘did nothing’

Czech president David Čech on Friday appointed a new prime minister, who could only take office from inside a glass box – after he lost a court battle to prevent his resignation.

Former centre-right Prime Minister Jiri Rusnok will become the country’s new prime minister for the second time and will immediately be asked to form a government at a cabinet meeting on Monday, Čech said after naming former PM Mirek Topolanek, the country’s first president and its most popular politician, as his new premier.

Čech ousted Rusnok earlier this month in a vote in the lower house after the ruling of the constitutional court, which ruled that Rusnok was supposed to leave office when his term expired on 8 January. Rusnok had said he would rather resign, but Čech vetoed his resignation and soon after Prime Minister Andrej Babis’s cabinet resigned.

Rusnok later appealed to the constitutional court, which again ruled against him, saying Čech had the right to appoint a new premier even though Rusnok had also left office.

Rusnok lost the presidential election in 2013, losing to Čech, whose center-left Civic Democratic party (ODS) handed over to Babis’s ANO bloc last month, following two years of deepening economic crisis.

Topolanek, the president from 1998 to 2009, could now be forced to turn to another ANO MEP from 2013 to 2017, current Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek, to be his prime minister. Babis has also appointed his close aide, Tomáš Prouza, as his chief of staff.

Čech appointed Babis, after which ANO won parliamentary elections last October.

However, there are allegations against Babis of manipulating bank accounts in the past to conceal a loss of millions of euros in two companies he owned, and a parliamentary audit reported last year that no meaningful legal guarantees existed to prevent Babis from influencing public policy if he becomes prime minister.

Çech promised to take decisions on law and business matters including anti-corruption legislation, asset forfeiture and changes to the rule of law and institutions.

“I demand solid rule of law and proper norms,” Čech said.

Babis, whose party has a slender majority in parliament, promised to restore the status of political parties’ fundraising and criticised media reporting on his finances. “It’s not now we are poor. Today we are full of money. We don’t need to raise funds,” he said.

Topolanek presented a centrist administration with little political baggage. Its choices for ministers include a reformist businessman to run the arms industry as defense minister, a former prison warden to form a public security ministry and a top air traffic control official to run the transport ministry.

Leave a Comment