Four-Party Coalition under continued strain

There have been frequent reports recently on serious problems within the Four-Party Coalition, a group of four right-of-centre opposition parties that currently dominates the opinion polls. The Coalition was dealt a blow recently when Christian Democrat Cyril Svoboda, the group's newly elected leader, stepped down after just two months in the job, and on Thursday Miroslav Kalousek, also a Christian Democrat, announced his resignation from all party and coalition functions.

Cyril SvobodaCyril Svoboda When Cyril Svoboda resigned, he blamed the Christian Democrats, saying their intransigence in talks on forming a Four Party Coalition shadow cabinet caused tensions with the other major player in the group - the centre-right Freedom Union. So can the Four-Party Coalition stay together until the 2002 Czech general elections? spoke to political analyst Vladimira Dvorakova to find out.

Vladimira Dvorakova: I think the position of the coalition of the parties is not very easy because they have problems with their own identity. The programmes are very different, and the conflict inside the Four-Party Coalition is a part of the internal conflict in the Christian Democrats; it's strongly connected. Because there are some activists who want to change the position of the Christian Democrats because they are the strongest party, to have the stronger position. And the fact that it was impossible to form a shadow cabinet with a Christian Democrat leadership is a problem for some of the Christian Democrats. Because part of the Christian Democrats are quite satisfied with the fact that Cyril Svoboda is no longer the leader.

Radio Prague: You mentioned Cyril Svoboda; he recently stepped down after just two months as the head of the Four-Party Coalition and now the Christian Democrats still have the most seats in the shadow cabinet, but they no longer have the leadership. Do you think they can ever reconcile themselves with this situation?

VD: I think that they can reconcile themselves with it, but it's having an impact on the internal factions in the Christian Democrats. There is a strong faction connected with Cyril Svoboda, and this is a faction which is more connected with social problems and social questions, and this is the main difference between the Christian Democrats and the Freedom Union.

RP: Well you talk about the Freedom Union. The leader of the Freedom Union, Karel Kuehnl, he's now the head of the Four-Party Coalition and as you said, the Freedom Union is a right-wing party and Mr Kuehnl is a right-wing politician. Do you think the Four-Party Coalition can still appeal to the centre voters with Mr Kuehnl at the helm, at the head of the party?

VD: Well I think they can because the policies can be partly changed, it will depend what the priorities in the electoral campaign will be, what issues they will speak about during the electoral campaign, so they can appeal [to those voters in the centre]. But the problem is that the identity of the Four-Party Coalition was mostly based on the fact that they are different from the other political parties: they refused any bargaining. Bargaining, I think, is quite normal, because you have to bargain over the posts, about the programme, you have to find a compromise. But they identified themselves strongly against any bargaining, and now what are they doing all the time? Conflicts and bargaining, and nothing more.

RP: The parties inside the Four-Party Coalition seem to be having problems, and they're still in opposition. Can you imagine them in government?

VD: Well, you can imagine anything, in this sense. But at this moment I'm afraid they have no real programme.