The Czech Republic has been marking the 57th anniversary of the communist takeover in 1948. A small crowd gathered in the Prague district of Mala Strana on Friday to commemorate a university student march to Prague Castle in which the students expressed support to then president Edvard Benes on February 25, 1948. The participants of the 1948 march were persecuted under the communist regime, which lasted in the country for forty years following the coup in February 1948.
The atmosphere in the governing coalition has been described as relatively calm but tense, following several hectic days during which the rift between the ruling Social Democrats and their smaller coalition partner the Christian Democrats was deepening. Informal consultations are being held and the number of options for the future political arrangement is rising. It is not yet clear whether the Social Democrat presidium will hold a meeting on Saturday and whether the party's acting chairman and Prime Minister Stanislav Gross will call a coalition meeting prior to the fundamental decision on the future of his cabinet.
Two Czechs have been expelled from Slovakia after being arrested in the capital Bratislava on Thursday for burning an American flag during a speech by the US President George Bush. Three Slovaks were also taken into custody for shouting obscenities at the US President. None of the arrested persons has been accused of crime and their behaviour was qualified as a misdemeanour. Mr Bush received a mainly enthusiastic welcome from Bratislava inhabitants. Over 4,000 people assembled on the town's main square to hear him speak.
The leader of the opposition Civic Democratic Party Mirek Topolanek said the Civic Democrats would only support a solution leading to early elections. The party says that whatever the outcome of the government crisis, barring early elections, the cabinet should ask for a vote of confidence in parliament. Otherwise the Civic Democrats will initiate a vote of no-confidence.
The Italian internet provider Tiscali has been allowed to join a consortium bidding for a 51.1 percent state-held stake in dominant Czech land-line operator Cesky Telecom, a ministerial privatisation commission announced on Friday. Tiscali will join the Czech-Slovak PPF/J and T/InWay consortium, one of five bidders for the state's stake. The government launched a tender for Cesky Telecom last December and said financial investors would not be allowed to bid directly but would have to team up with telecoms companies.
After holding a series of high-level talks with political leaders on
Thursday, President Vaclav Klaus urged a speedy resolution of the Czech
government crisis. On Friday President Klaus said the natural
alternative would be early elections.
The crisis in the governing coalition broke out recently over the Prime Minister's private finances and the business activities of his wife. A reconciliation attempt between the two feuding parties in government broke down on Wednesday, with both sides reiterating their earlier positions. The Prime Minister Stanislav Gross said that if the Christian Democrats could not accept him as head of cabinet, their three ministers should resign from office. The Christian Democrats say the Prime Minister himself should resign.
The leader of the opposition Civic Democratic Party Mirek Topolanek, who also conferred with the President, said the Civic Democrats would only support a solution leading to early elections. Earlier today the party rejected speculation that it would support a minority Social Democrat government in return for the approval of a majority -first-past the post - electoral system which it is known to favour. The opposition Civic Democrats say that whatever the outcome of the government crisis, barring early elections, the government should ask for a vote of confidence in Parliament. Senior party member Vlastimil Tlusty said that if the government itself failed to act in this respect, the Civic Democrats would not hesitate to initiate a no-confidence vote. In a no-confidence vote 101 of the 200 deputies in the lower house would have to vote against the government to bring it down. The governing coalition now has a slim 101 vote majority in Parliament.
Christian Democrat leader Miroslav Kalousek has made public the name of the man from whom he borrowed money to build his home in Bechyne, south Bohemia in 1997. The loan was allegedly provided by his brother in law, a businessman who was murdered several years later. Kalousek said that he was hesitant to make the information public for fear of the impact this could have on his family but that he now felt it was important to make his financial affairs transparent.
During consultations with the President on Thursday, Prime Minister
Stanislav Gross submitted several possible solutions to the crisis. He
said a solution must be found and those who could make it happen should
act. The Prime Minister said that he did not see much hope for the
present coalition, given the Christian Democrat's stance and that he
was prepared to negotiate with all parties in Parliament. He has not,
for the present, asked President Klaus to dismiss the three Christian
Meanwhile, the Christian Democrat leader Miroslav Kalousek told President Klaus that his party did not want to break up the coalition and intended to "tone down its rhetoric" in the coming days and weeks.