The Czech coalition government is serving its last hours in office, pending Wednesday's resignation of the entire Cabinet. The government fell on Saturday when Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla announced he was stepping down as head of government after he narrowly survived being ousted as party leader. Mr. Spidla, who served as Prime Minister for two years, found himself under increasing pressure after his party's poor showing in the recent elections to the European Parliament.
The Czech crown, which dropped on news of the government's fall, has now fully recovered. The crown shed 30 hellers to the US dollar and 20 to the Euro, but made a surprisingly quick recovery climbing back to its former level within two hours. Raifeissenbank analyst Ivo Nejdl said the crown would probably spend some time on the weaker side of 32 crowns to the Euro, waiting for further moves on the Czech political scene. If the communists are invited to take part in the government in any way, there would be another drop, he said.
President Vaclav Klaus has said he plans to hold talks with the leaders of three parliamentary parties before deciding whom to commission with forming a new Czech government. They are the Social Democrats, the Christian Democrats and the opposition Civic Democrats. The talks are to begin on Thursday following the resignation of the present Cabinet. The standard procedure would be for the President to give this task to the head of the strongest party in parliament, currently acting chairman of the Social Democrats Stanislav Gross, but the Constitution allows him to make a different choice should he find it to be politically justified. Mr. Gross has indicated that he is ready for the task and is confident that he could form a viable cabinet which could remain in office until the next general elections, which are due in 2006. Meanwhile, the opposition Civic Democrats, who won the elections to the European Parliament, are pushing for early elections on home ground as well, possibly in the middle of next year.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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