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Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek’s main rival for the leadership of the Civic Democrats has come out strongly against ratifying the Lisbon treaty. Speaking on a TV debate show on Sunday, Prague Mayor Pavel Bém said it was not possible for the Czech Republic to hand over powers to Brussels without receiving anything in return, and without even understanding why. Mr Bém said that the Civic Democrats had adopted a resolution rejecting the transferral of state or national powers to what he called “European Brussels-ocracy”; he said he expected the party’s members to adhere to that pledge. Prague’s mayor is close to President Václav Klaus, a strong opponent of Lisbon. Prime Minister Topolánek, who is in favour of ratification, said on Tuesday that the Czech Parliament would vote on the matter in the first quarter of next year.

Meanwhile, the branch of the Civic Democrats in the rural area around Brno (Brno-venkov) has become the latest to give its backing to Mirek Topolánek ahead of a leadership vote four weeks from now. With a number of district branches around the country having expressed support for Mr Topolánek, he is in front of Pavel Bém, who enjoys strong backing in the capital. Mr Bém, currently first deputy chairman of the Civic Democrats, announced his candidature in the wake of poor results for the party in recent regional and Senate elections.

Prime Minister Topolánek is in favour of the current government with the Christian Democrats and the Greens seeing out its full term; Mr Bém has been critical of the coalition, and there has been speculation he would try to enter some form of power-sharing deal with the opposition Social Democrats.