For his part, the leader of the Civic Democrats, Mirek Topolanek, has said he is afraid Mr Gross will be less likely to distance himself from the Communists than Vladimir Spidla, who always refused to co-operate with them. Mr Topolanek called on Sunday for the formation of a caretaker government which would rule until the holding of early elections in the middle of next year. The Civic Democrats have been leading in polls of voter support for some time.
Meanwhile, the Freedom Union have elected Pavel Nemec leader, after Petr Mares stepped down in the wake of very poor results for the party in recent elections to the European Parliament. Mr Nemec has been minister for local development in the outgoing coalition. He said on Sunday the Freedom Union were willing to discuss the establishment of a new government with all parties except the Communists.
The acting chairman of the Social Democrats, Stanislav Gross, is understood to favour forming a minority government with the Christian Democrats. The two parties were in a coalition with the Freedom Union under Mr Spidla. Mr Gross said he believed it was possible to form a government which would remain in office until the next general elections, which are due in 2006. He added that he was keen to avoid relying on the Communist Party, who have said they would support a minority government under certain conditions.
As for Mr Spidla's future, Stanislav Gross said on Sunday he hoped the outgoing prime minister would find room to advance his policies in both the Social Democratic Party and Czech politics in general. After he resigned on Saturday, Mr Spidla said he did not expect to be a member of any government formed by the acting chairman of the Social Democrats. Mr Gross also said he would like to hold talks with former party chairman Milos Zeman, who has strongly criticised both him and Vladimir Spidla.
President Vaclav Klaus has said he will start holding talks on the
formation of a new Czech government on Thursday, the day after the current
government are due to resign en masse. The government fell on Saturday
when Vladimir Spidla announced he was stepping down as prime minister and
leader of the Social Democrats, after a party vote of no confidence. Mr
Spidla, who had been prime minister for two years, found himself under
increasing pressure after his party's poor showing in European elections
two weeks ago.
President Klaus, who cut short a foreign trip to discuss political developments in Prague, said on Sunday he would first hold talks with the Social Democrats, the Christian Democrats and the Civic Democrats.
First deputy chairman Stanislav Gross is the man most likely to succeed Vladimir Spidla as chairman of the Social Democratic Party. The 34-year-old interior minister has received the backing of the party's central committee to begin negotiations on the formation of a new government. He is believed to favour a two-party minority coalition with the Christian Democrats. Mr Gross has recently expressed his opposition to maintaining the coalition with the Christian Democrats and the Freedom Union which Mr Spidla formed after the last general election in June 2002.
On the eve of the Czech Republic's quarter-final clash with Denmark at the European Football Championships in Portugal, assistant trainer Miroslav Beranek said the Czechs would be keen not to concede the first goal, as they did in their three group games. He said it was necessary for the Czech team to avoid individual blunders in Sunday's match. If the Czech Republic beat Denmark they will face Greece in the semi-finals on Thursday.
Meanwhile, the outgoing leader of the right-of-centre Freedom Union,
Petr Mares, said the party was prepared to go into opposition. But
Pavel Nemec, who many expect to be elected new Freedom Union chairman
on Sunday, said he was prepared to play a part in a coalition
government which would have a majority in the Chamber of Deputies and
not have to rely on the support of the Communist Party.
The Communist Party would be prepared to support a minority government under certain conditions, said chairman Miroslav Grebenicek. He also said he welcomed Mr Spidla's resignation and said it was good that he was departing the political scene.
The biggest opposition party, the Civic Democrats, are in favour of the establishment of a caretaker government which would remain in place until the holding of early elections, said chairman Mirek Topolanek.
In an extremely dramatic day in Czech politics, Vladimir Spidla has
resigned as leader of the Social Democratic Party and as Czech prime
minister. Mr Spidla announced his decision just hours after he had
narrowly survived a vote of no confidence in him as leader of the Social
Though opponents of Mr Spidla had fallen six votes short of the three-fifths majority necessary to remove him, a simple majority of delegates at Saturday's meeting of the party's central committee had voted against him.
The low level of support for him in the party is believed to be the reason Mr Spidla decided to step down after two years as prime minister. The cabinet is expected to resign on Wednesday.
Vladimir Spidla's fate had been uncertain since the Social Democrats did badly in recent elections to the European Parliament, and he had rejected pressure from within the party to step down as leader while remaining in the position of prime minister.
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