The Czech Republic has been commemorating the saint's day of Cyril and Methodius, two Christian missionaries who came from the Greek city of Thessaloniki in the 9th century and brought the Christian faith to the country as well as the Cyrillic alphabet, still used by several Slavonic languages. St. Cyril and Methodius Day reminds people of the spiritual legacy of the Christian faith in Czech history, and the two Byzantine brothers are considered by Christian churches around the world as exemplary missionaries. Friday's holiday, remembered in many places around the Czech Republic, culminated in the Moravian pilgrimage town of Velehrad, where several masses for thousands of believers were served by Czech and Moravian bishops.
Following a meeting of the Social Democratic party's leadership in Prague on Friday, party leader Vladimir Spidla has announced that Social Democrat Lubomir Zaoralek is likely to become new Chairman of the lower house of the Czech parliament. In the previous parliament, Mr. Zaoralek held the post of chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee. Mr. Spidla also informed journalists that early next week consultations on the composition of a new cabinet should be finished. It remains to be seen if the Social Democrats will agree to the candidates put forward by the centre-right Freedom Union and the Christian Democrats. The three parties have conducting coalition talks on forming a new cabinet and on Wednesday they signed a coalition agreement.
The leadership of the Freedom Union has been discussing the pace of lowering the state budget deficit, that formed part of coalition talks with the Social Democrats on Wednesday. The slower pace put through by the Social Democrats led the Freedom Union leader, Hana Marvanova, to step down from her post on Thursday. However, Mrs. Marvanova said that although she did not agree with the new cabinet's financial policy, she would give it her full support because of its pro-European orientation.
The chairman of the Christian Democrats, Cyril Svoboda, described the resignation of Hana Marvanova as an unfortunate step, considering the nearly completed negotiations on the new coalition government. The deputy chairman of the Christian Democrats Jan Kasal said the whole Coalition grouping, that is the Christian Democrats and the Freedom Union, were going to be affected by Ms Marvanova's move but he expressed hope the coalition talks would not be threatened.
The leader of the Freedom Union, Hana Marvanova, resigned on Thursday explaining she was not satisfied with the results of the coalition talks between her party, the Christian Democrats and the ruling Social Democrats. Ms Marvanova said, however, that as an MP for the Freedom Union she was ready to vote in favour of the future government in a parliamentary confidence vote. Hana Marvanova says she plans to remain a member of the Freedom Union and does not want the party to be shaken by her step. According to the party statutes, the Freedom Union is now to be led by the first deputy chairman Ivan Pilip who failed to be elected to the lower house in the mid-June general elections.
Following the resignation of Hana Marvanova, the leader of the Social Democrats, Vladimir Spidla, met representatives of the Freedom Union and the Christian Democrats, the two partners in the Coalition grouping. After the meeting, Mr Spidla told journalists that negotiations on the future government were not threatened and they were to continue. The leadership of the Social Democrats is to discuss the matter on Friday.
Mr Pilip, the interim head of the Freedom Union, told journalists that despite the resignation of its chairwoman, the Freedom Union wants to successfully complete talks on a coalition government with the Social Democrats and the Christian Democrats. Ivan Pilip said he would not seek any ministerial post in the future government and would not even run for the post of party chairman. On Monday Mr Pilip will start debate on when to call an extraordinary national conference of the Freedom Union.
The Social Democrats have agreed on the forming of a new government with the two parties in the Coalition grouping, the Christian Democrats and the Freedom Union. After talks on Wednesday night, the leader of the Christian Democrats, Cyril Svoboda, said that negotiations on the division of ministries should be completed in the next few days. The Social Democrats, who are led by Prime Minister-to be Vladimir Spidla and came first in elections almost three weeks ago, are to have 10 cabinet seats; the other two parties will have six between them. The number of deputy chairs in the Chamber of Deputies will reflect the number of seats held by all five parties in the lower house. The Social Democrats will have the chairmanship and one deputy chair, the Civic Democrats two deputy chairs and the other parties, including the Communists, will have one each.
Meanwhile, the Social Democrat leader Vladimir Spidla, who is positioned to become the country's next prime minister, is preparing for talks with potential coalition partners. Mr. Spidla has ruled out a coalition with both the Civic Democrats and the Communists, saying that he would first talk to the leaders of the centre-right Coalition. A governing coalition between the Social Democrats, the Christian Democrats and the Freedom Union is seen as the most likely set-up although it would command only a slim one-vote majority in Parliament. If these talks fail, the Social Democrat leader has said he is not ruling out a minority government with the support of one or more parliamentary parties.
Vaclav Klaus, the head of the centre right Civic Democratic Party has openly admitted defeat, saying, shortly after his meeting with President Havel, that his party had little choice but to go into opposition . Mr. Klaus refrained from commenting on his own uncertain future, refusing to say whether he would accept full responsibility for the party's show down and resign from his post. He told journalists that he must first consult the matter with the party leadership . The election results appear to rule out any ambitions of a return to power for the 60 year old former economics professor and his chances of becoming the next Czech president are slim.
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