Home > Strategic Analysis > Karolina Peake, new Czech Defense Minister

Karolina Peake, new Czech Defense Minister

Published : 13 December 2012
1 174 words in that article

Political negotiations lasted several days but finally the three parties forming the current governmental coalition (ODS, TOP09, LIDEM) came to an agreement on the names of the three new ministers who will enter in the government. President Klaus has nominated in the afternoon of 12th December 2012 Ms. Karolina Peake as new Defense Minister, Mr. Zbyněk Stanjura (ODS) as new Transport Minister and Mr. Petr Mlsna (close to LIDEM) as Minister without portfolio who will replace Ms. Peake as head of the Government Legislative Council.

Prime Minister Nečas brushed aside the various recent objections linked with the total inexperience of the new Minister in her domain of competence. He recalled that Ms. Peake, in her role of Vice-Premier, was part of the State Security Council from April 2012 and that she saw all the dossiers of the Defense Ministry that were given to this institution.

Finally it is a 37 years old lawyer who has been nominated as 13th Defense Minister since the separation with Slovakia in 1993. She has been promoted in a crucial period for the Armed Forces who are conducting a major reorganization following the orientations of the White Paper published in May 2011. This year 2013 will be particularly important in the transformation process because necessary steps have to be implemented (Suppression of 2 headquarters, creation of several agencies, suppression of Prerov Base, new Status of military people (from 1st January 2014)).

There are still 18 months before the next parliamentary elections and success of the new Minister will be considered in the light of the accomplished work. Two types of situations could happen according to the way Ms. Peake is envisaging to manage her ministry:

  • Status-quo if she will carefully follow the path designed by her predecessor;
  • Open war with the military part of the Ministry and chaos if she will not be capable to get the upper hand and will let other lobbies to manipulate her.

Status quo, the most probable option

Knowing nothing about the military or the international affairs – Ms. Peake was two years ago town councilor in the Prague 1 district – she could chose to strictly follow the orientations designed by predecessor Mr. Vondra and try to keep pace in the reform agenda.

It will request a very quick adaptation to the current open dossiers in order to take the proper decisions, as well as a natural authority or charisma to be able to get the upper hand in a male and heavily hierarchized environment. The success is at stake because, as it is the case for important reorganizations, the one which is currently undergoing in the Ministry of Defense is giving rise to negative reactions and frictions.

In order to clean her name in front of accusations of incompetence in her new domain of activity, Ms. Peake declared that she had the intention to surround herself with experts to help her solve the technical questions.

The high ranking officials of the Defense Ministry are consisting of three deputy-ministers (General Picek, the former CHoDS, who is responsible for international affairs, Mr. Michael Hrbata (ODS), in charge of personnel and veterans, Mr. Libor Karásek (ODS), responsible for economy), one acting Deputy-Minister (brigadier Bulant who is managing the procurement questions since departure of Rudolf Blažek in last September) and one General Secretary (Jan Vylita, former employee of company Pricewaterhouse Coopers).

It will be necessary to monitor carefully the changes within these high ranking officials.

If Ms. Peake will leave the current people, only nominating a new Deputy-Minister in charge of armament questions, it will be a good signal, indicating that she is intending to follow the Mr. Vondra’s path and to give advantage to stability rather than to political small games. By the way, with the nomination of one of her supporters to the position of Deputy-Minister for armament questions, she will have enough political space to maintain her own anticorruption agenda. General Picek, not affiliated to any political party, could be the tutor and protector of Ms. Peake in this difficult environment. Mr Hrbata and Karásek could act as guarantee that ODS objectives are safeguarded, without mentioning their own expertise in their respective field of competence. Mr. Vylita does not belong as well to any party and since he is a good professional, would contribute to maintain a reputation of professionalism within the Ministry.

If, on the contrary, Ms. Peake will make relevant changes inside the higher hierarchy of the Ministry, it will be the sign that she wishes to get rid of the heritage of Mr. Vondra… and this would not be good news.

Open war with military people and chaos: an option not to be put aside

General Pavel underlined in a recent interview that: because she does not have any experience in defense and security matters, «her choice of voices she will decide to listen will be decisive. If other radical budgets cuts were imposed for example, without taking in consideration the impact on armed forces, we would be obliged to remind her of our existence».

It is the biggest difficulty for novices to sort out the good and bad advices which are always massively flowing around them. No doubt that many people will propose their services to the new Minister in order to help her understand her new job – without mentioning her colleagues inside the government who are obviously dying for having a more flexible person compared with her predecessor, mainly in terms of budget. The relative political weakness of Liberal Democrat party, which is only consisting of several representatives in the Parliament (8/200), will not help Ms. Peake in her inter-ministerial negotiation work.

Knowing that she wants to promote in her new Ministry, apart from her anticorruption program, an expenses reduction plan, it will be difficult to get the approval of more cuts without modification of the capabilities and this could be the casus belli with the military part of the Ministry.

The risk is quite high to see a young Minister without experience becoming a toy in the hands of lobbies defending the interests of some corporate body. Facing such a situation, Ms. Peake could choose either to stay backwards – and leave the power to one of her deputies, as it was the case with Ms Parkanová and her 1st Deputy Martin Barták between 2007 and 2009 – or, confusing authority and authoritarianism, to impose her point of view by a radical behavior which would favor chaos within the Ministry and would decisively stop any current reform.

Before promoting a general, Napoleon always asked if the candidate is lucky. For the time being, Lady Luck was always smiling on Ms. Peake. Let’s hope that she will do so for the next 18 months because many things are at stake for the Ministry, particularly in terms of modernization. All the reforms undergoing nowadays are not ideal but at least they are allowing safeguarding the current capabilities.

We wish good luck to Ms. Peake … and to the Ministry; both of them will desperately need a lot of it.