Extraordinary meeting of the House of Representatives on the proposal to limit the extraordinary June valorization of pensions, February 28, 2023, Prague. In the photo, Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Marian Jurečka.
Prague – The Chamber of Deputies will vote on consent to the abbreviated discussion of the controversial proposal to reduce the June increase in pensions today at 8:00 p.m. The fixed time was set by the votes of practically all coalition and opposition legislators according to the counter-proposal of Patrik Nacher from the opposition ANO. The coalition originally proposed setting the date for the vote at 3:30 p.m. According to the chairman of the ANO club, Alena Schillerová, the coalition only wants to improve its position at the Constitutional Court, to which the opposition wants to turn in the event of the adoption of the government's pension bill.
The proposal for today's 3:30 p.m. was presented by the chairman of the People's Deputies, Marek Výborný, pointing out the “sweeping” discussion and repetitive argumentation. Opposition MPs submitted more than 20 counter-proposals. Nacher justified his request to postpone the vote to today's 8:00 p.m. by saying that a significant part of the six dozen properly registered deputies will be able to attend. “It is calculated in such a way as to allow ordinary deputies to speak,” he said.
Nacher's counter-proposal was among the closest to the coalition proposal. Its approval infuriated SPD chairman Tomio Okamura, who wanted the House to vote on agreeing to a shortened discussion of the amendment, skipping the first reading at 8pm on Sunday. He asked if there was an agreement between ANO and the coalition. “It confirms that the SPD movement is apparently the only opposition party here,” he says.
The coalition made similar progress in trying to overcome opposition obstructions already on Wednesday. She let the House of Representatives decide on the determination of a fixed time for the vote on confirming the duration of the state of legislative emergency.
Jurečka refused that the government would submit a change in pensions until now because of the election of the president
Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Marian Jurečka (KDU-ČSL) objected today in the House of Representatives to opposition complaints that the government could have presented an adjustment to reduce the growth of pensions earlier and that it waited until after the election of the president. He repeated that the extraordinary June valorization of pensions according to the current rules would mean a budget expenditure of almost 600 billion crowns in the next ten years, and this impact would no longer be possible to limit in any way. A permanent statutory expenditure would threaten the sustainability of the pension system in the future, the minister said.
Jurečka rejected the connection between the time of the submission of the amendment on the reduction of the pension growth in June and the January presidential elections, saying that he had been talking about the need to change the valuation for many months. “In the fall and in January, I clearly declared that we need to adjust the long-term valorization mechanism because it is not sustainable in the long term,” he noted. In the presidential final, the chairman of the ANO opposition movement, Andrej Babiš, faced off against the victorious retired general Petr Pavlo, supported by the coalition. ANO deputies have pointed out several times in the parliamentary debate so far that the earlier submission of the current amendment could affect the outcome of the election.
Jurečka also said that the government expected an extraordinary valorization of pensions this year, but with effects on the budget for this year until 20 billion crowns. That they should be much higher, over 35 billion crowns, was caused by the jump in inflation between December and January, according to him. Thanks to the one-time reduction of the June valuation, the state will save approximately 20 billion crowns this year. The minister estimated the reduction of expenses in the next ten years at 316.4 billion crowns.
Jurečka also disagreed with the opposition's claims about the retroactive effect of the amendment and that it violates the legitimate expectations of pensioners. He emphasized again that the claim depends only on the relevant government regulation, which must be issued in this case by March 22. Using passages from one of the findings of the Constitutional Court, the minister also defended the coalition's approach against opposition obstructions in the House of Representatives. It consists in shortening the speaking time and setting a fixed voting time.
ANO Member of Parliament Berenika Peštová, in response to the minister's speech, said that according to the decision of the Constitutional Court, the government is obliged to prepare for the implementation of valid laws within the framework of the state budget. Her colleague from the movement, Margita Balaštíková, said that 400,000 pensioners are below the income poverty line. “Most people will not come for the social benefits that you are so happy to throw away,” said the ANO MP, which was criticized for its generous social policy and subsidies during the coronavirus crisis. Jaroslav Foldyna (SPD) noted ironically that the cabinet of Petr Fiala (ODS) managed to “reduce” inflation from the end of Babiš's government from five percent to the current 15 percent.
Today's parliamentary debate was also accompanied by disputes regarding the average income ratio towards the average wage and regarding the pension reform. Martin Kukla (ANO) urged the coalition to stop “committing political suicide”.
SPD Chairman Okamura started the third obstructionist speech
The chairman of the SPD, Tomio Okamura, gave a third obstruction speech in the House of Representatives this afternoon on the government's proposal to reduce the June valorization of pensions. He announced that he was preparing another. His previous speeches since the opening of the meeting on Tuesday lasted nine hours and 22 minutes, his current speech lasted similar to Wednesday's two hours and 18 minutes. Deputies have debated the proposal for approximately 39 hours so far. The number of people registered for the debate has returned to over six dozen since the morning. The House of Representatives has not yet gotten around to discussing its own proposal. Deputies have been debating since the night whether the conditions for its approval in an abbreviated regime are met.
As in previous appearances, Okamura accused the government of Petr Fiala (ODS) of indebting the country or of throwing money abroad at the expense of the socially needy. “You are the leaders in sending money to Ukraine and Ukrainians,” declared the chairman of the SPD. By default, he called the current cabinet the worst in the country's history and, like on Wednesday, he continued to quote and comment from his bachelor's thesis on pension systems.
During a detailed description of the Slovak pension system, Okamura, chairing the meeting, Markéta Pekarová Adamová (TOP 09), was admonished to speak to the point. The chairman of the SPD objected that during previous appearances this comparison did not bother other chairmen. “Don't interpret it your way,” said the head of the Chamber.
In his next speech, Okamura wants to address the Czech pension system in detail as part of the debate on his own proposal. He reminded that SPD MPs want to submit 102 amendments to the government proposal, which they intend to justify accordingly. “We insist on it,” he added.
The speech of the chairman of the SPD was preceded by another verbal exchange between the representatives of the government coalition about whether the conditions for the abbreviated discussion were met and whether the government should have submitted the proposal earlier. The chairwoman of ANO deputies, Alena Schillerová, repeatedly called on the government to withdraw the proposal and agree with the opposition on a standard discussion of the reform of the pension system. Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Marian Jurečka (KDU-ČSL) noted that ANO chairman Andrej Babiš already claimed in 2014 that he had a pension reform proposal ready and that he would present it, which he never did. “Mr. Minister Jurečka, please invite us and let's talk about it. I'm also not blaming you here, in which different governments you were and you didn't push through anything at all,” countered Schillerová.
Aleš Juchelka (ANO) “congratulated” the ODS on the fact that the Czech Republic had the highest budget deficit in February under the ODS finance minister. ANO MPs again demanded the presence of Minister for Legislation Michal Šalomoun (for the Pirates), who apologized due to the meeting of the Legislative Council of the Government. Hubert Lang (ANO) pointed out that the minister also apologized for the night meeting because, unlike the deputies, he was “spinning”. Deputy Prime Minister and President of the Pirates, Ivan Bartoš, objected to such a vocabulary as out of place and paternalistic.
According to insider information from ČTK, the coalition will try to proceed in such a way that the House of Representatives approves the reduction in the valuation of pensions on Friday. However, the government camp is said to be ready for a possible meeting of the lower house on the weekend.
The coalition enforced the limitation of speaking time for the next phase of negotiations on pensions
After 09:00 a.m. today, the House of Representatives, according to the proposal of the coalition, limited the speaking time even for the debate on whether the controversial government amendment on reducing the June pension increase will be discussed abbreviatedly without the first reading. The majority of the House thus proceeded in the same way as on Wednesday, when it shortened the time for deputies to speak when discussing the confirmation of the state of legislative emergency. In addition, it is expected that the coalition will re-propose and enforce a fixed hour of voting on consent to a shortened discussion of the draft.
Deputies, except for speakers with the right to speak first, will be able to speak at most twice, according to the approved proposal of the chairman of the STAN club, Josef Cogan. and always up to five minutes. Cogan pointed out that the current debate materially follows on from the discussion about the duration of the legislative emergency. “The arguments are virtually identical and repeated,” he said. According to him, shortening the speaking time will contribute to the fact that as many MPs as possible get to speak.
The chairperson of the ANO opposition club, Alena Schillerová, disagreed with Cogan. “There are new arguments all the time, we usually don't get answers to them,” she countered. The House rejected her proposal that the speakers could speak for up to an hour and divide this time evenly between two presentations.
Discussion of the pension amendment is accompanied by announced opposition obstructions. Almost 48 hours have passed since the start of the meeting on Tuesday, of which MPs have debated approximately 35. More than 50 members of the lower chamber are currently registered for the proper discussion to assess the conditions for the abbreviated discussion of the bill. Schillerová with a comprehensive performance. In it, she critically evaluated the activities and intentions of the cabinet of Petr Fiala (ODS) and accused the coalition of undemocratic methods when discussing the pension amendment. “You would never have defeated us if you had not violated the rules of procedure. You have no choice but to massacre us, rather than violate our basic rights,” she said. She also declared that her “sleeping bag” has become the symbol of the current obstruction.
According to CTK insider information, however, the coalition will try to proceed in such a way that the House of Representatives approves the reduction in the valuation of pensions on Friday. However, the government camp is said to be ready for a possible meeting of the lower house at the weekend.