Czech PM unveils a cabinet dominated by hardliners

A strongman prime minister with the full support of his strongman president just named his new cabinet, after which the Czech Republic descended into some casual office decor.

Michal Dvorkovich, appointed premier by conservative President Milos Zeman, added the name of Pavel Fischer as his deputy. Here’s how it looks from a far:

The theme of the reshuffle is Václav Havel, the doyen of Czech liberal intellectuals who became a champion of democracy when he was Czechoslovakia’s Nobel Prize winning President (who served from 1989-1992).

He was chosen to chair the Czechoslovak Constitutional Tribunal after the fall of communism in 1989 and began a weekly show on state-owned TV where he became a vocal champion of liberal values. His son, Jan, who works at the UK’s Unicef office in Prague, had been representing him.

The reshuffle followed a year when the country was rife with scandals. Zeman caught international attention when a video emerged on YouTube showing him suggesting police should shoot rioters. He later described it as “honest” and said he had been wearing a bulletproof vest because he had been shot at, but added that it was “very different from being shot by a policeman” and that he had been slapped.

“The government definitely has a fascist lean towards extremism and an anti-democratic framework,” Jan Fischer, a Labor Party lawmaker, told AFP after the reshuffle.

The New York Times reports that Mr. Dvorkovich — a nationalist, eurosceptic, and hardliner — has just completed his first year in office.

Here’s more:

“The Czech government has now had six different parties and nine different prime ministers in the past nine years,” writes Alexander Graf Lambsdorff in the Times.

Mr. Dvorkovich is a Cold War-era veteran of the movement for Czech reunification who is critical of Mr. Obama’s deal with Iran that granted it relief from international sanctions over its nuclear program.”

Michael W. Crocker, a historian of the Czech Republic, told the Times that Dvorkovich is “a pro-lifer in contrast to Mr. Zeman.” He noted that “Mr. Zeman has appointed a number of Holocaust deniers as ministers over the years.”

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