Government may fall next weekend as Prime Minister Spidla goes for broke

22-06-2004

It looks like the end game is in sight. The embattled Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla has decided to go for broke, and has delivered an ultimatum to his Social Democratic Party: keep me on as party leader or I bring down the whole government.

Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla, photo: CTKPrime Minister Vladimir Spidla, photo: CTK Vladimir Spidla has been on the ropes since the Social Democrats' poor showing in recent elections to the European Parliament. Withstanding huge pressure from his party, Mr Spidla has rejected a plan under which he would remain prime minister but step down as party leader. With his back to the wall, he came out fighting on Monday, delivering an ultimatum to the Social Democrats: keep me on as party chairman or I resign as prime minister, bringing down the government and putting all your futures on the line.

Interior minister Stanislav Gross, photo: CTKInterior minister Stanislav Gross, photo: CTK The Social Democrats are due to vote on Saturday on whether to allow Vladimir Spidla to remain head of the party. In the meantime, another tactical ploy - a Chamber of Deputies vote of confidence in his government - could take place on Thursday. That is, if the prime minister can find enough support for the holding of such a vote. Even if he does, at least one rebel Social Democrat has said he won't support the cabinet, and the government has a majority of just one in the lower house.

Either way, Vladimir Spidla is by all accounts extremely unlikely to win the party confidence vote on Saturday. Most probably the government will fall and he will be replaced by Stanislav Gross, the interior minister and the most powerful man in the Social Democrats, with several papers suggesting President Vaclav Klaus has already given his consent to Mr Gross forming the next, minority government. Tuesday's edition of the daily Hospodarske noviny went so far as to list the ministers in his planned cabinet.

22-06-2004