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 Democrats.
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.
President Vaclav Klaus said on Saturday evening he would wait until he officially received Mr Spidla's resignation as prime minister before taking any steps towards the formation of a new government. Mr Klaus is abroad and will return to Prague on Tuesday evening after a Nato meeting in Istanbul.
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.
Meanwhile, the outgoing leader of the right-of-centre Freedom Union, Petr Mares, said the party was prepared to go into opposition. But Pavel Nemec, who many expect to be elected new Freedom Union chairman on Sunday, said he was prepared to play a part in a coalition government which would have a majority in the Chamber of Deputies and not have to rely on the support of the Communist Party.
The Communist Party would be prepared to support a minority government under certain conditions, said chairman Miroslav Grebenicek. He also said he welcomed Mr Spidla's resignation and said it was good that he was departing the political scene.
The biggest opposition party, the Civic Democrats, are in favour of the establishment of a caretaker government which would remain in place until the holding of early elections, said chairman Mirek Topolanek.
The Czech Republic has relatively low levels of poverty compared to other European Union countries, according to a study released by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs on Friday. However, the study also found that the number of people living on the "edge of poverty" is higher than in other EU countries. One in twelve Czechs has an income below the minimum wage of 6,700 crowns (210 euros) a month.
On the eve of the Czech Republic's quarter-final clash with Denmark at the European Football Championships in Portugal, assistant trainer Miroslav Beranek said the Czechs would be keen not to concede the first goal, as they did in their three group games. He said it was necessary for the Czech team to avoid individual blunders in Sunday's match. If the Czech Republic beat Denmark they will face Greece in the semi-finals on Thursday.
Sunday should be a bright day, with the chance of rain in places. Temperatures will range between 21 and 25 degrees Celsius.
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