Rusnok vote hardly a setback to Zeman’s long-term Czech presidential power grab


Although it was caretaker prime minister Jiří Rusnok that lost today’s vote of no confidence by a margin of 100 to 93 in the Czech parliament, but the real loser is the Czech Republic’s new president Miloš Zeman — albeit only temporarily.czech

Zeman appointed Rusnok (pictured above) prime minister in late June after the collapse of the government of conservative prime minister Petr Nečas stemming from a sensational espionage and corruption scandal.  You might expect that, as in most parliamentary systems, Zeman would have appointed a replacement prime minister who comes from the party or coalition of parties that currently wields a majority.  Instead, he appointed Rusnok, an acolyte who served as Zeman’s finance minister from 2001 to 2002 and later as the minister of industry and trade under Zeman’s social democratic successor, Vladimír Špidla.

So what gives?

When Nečas resigned, it was a stroke of luck for Zeman, who took over as president only in March 2013 and who is pushing to consolidate more power within the presidency at the expense of the Czech parliament.  Though both of his predecessors — playwright and freedom fighter Václav Havel nor euroskpetic Václav Klaus — played outsized roles as president due to their gravitas and outspokenness, Zeman argues that his direct mandate from the Czech people should provide him a more hands-on role in setting Czech policy (Before January’s direct election, the Czech president was indirectly elected by the parliament).  By appointing his own economic adviser as prime minister, Zeman could immediately begin to shape the Czech government according to his own prerogative.

But Zeman’s presidential power grab is a longer-term project than just the Rusnok vote today, and though his attempt to install Rusnok failed, it served a very important purpose for Zeman by bringing the chief center-left party, the Česká strana sociálně demokratická (ČSSD, Czech Social Democratic Party), more fully under his influence.  With polls showing that the ČSSD is set to win the next Czech parliamentary election, that’s arguably an even important goal for Zeman’s long-run designs than installing Rusnok as prime minister.

Continue reading Rusnok vote hardly a setback to Zeman’s long-term Czech presidential power grab

Photo of the day: Adorable Korean kid photo bombs Kevin Rudd


Another day on the campaign trail for Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd, though yesterday’s star was Joseph Kim, a five-year-old who delighted in making faces as the cameras rolled away at a Rudd campaign stop at a Korean church in Sydney on Wednesday.Australia Flag Icon

Australians vote in exactly one month on September 7 to determine whether to give Rudd a full term as prime minister, six weeks after his fellow Labor colleagues reinstated him as party leader when polls showed that former prime minister Julia Gillard had virtually no chance of winning this autumn’s election.  Gillard had replaced Rudd as prime minister in June 2010 after griping over Rudd’s management style.

All together, Labor is seeking a third consecutive term — Rudd led the party to a robust victory in November 2007, and Gillard led the party to the narrowest of victories in August 2010.

Rudd faces Tony Abbott, the leader of the National/Liberal Coalition, which governed the country under former prime minister John Howard in the early 2000s.

One more photo:


Photo credit: Andrew Meares, Sydney Morning Herald