Klaus to appoint Topolanek PM for second time, but why?

07-11-2006

President Vaclav Klaus announced on Monday that he was no longer willing to wait for the country's political parties to agree on forming a temporary government to lead the country to early elections. He said he would appoint Mirek Topolanek, leader of the Civic Democrats, as prime minister designate for a second time, even though Mr Topolanek's first attempt ended in failure. So is this Mr Klaus washing his hands of the whole business, and what does it mean for the country?

President Vaclav Klaus, photo: CTKPresident Vaclav Klaus, photo: CTK President Klaus summoned reporters to a special press conference at Prague Castle on Monday. He told them, essentially, that he was sick of waiting for the five parties in parliament to agree on a solution which would lead the country out of the current deadlock. He directed particular ire at Jiri Paroubek, leader of the Social Democrats, for shooting down his proposal of a rainbow coalition to lead the country to early elections. He said he would appoint Mirek Topolanek prime minister - again - regardless of the fact that Mr Topolanek seems doomed to failure.

Mr Klaus's decision does bring the country one step closer to early elections. Under the Constitution, parliament can only be dissolved and new elections held once three attempts at forming a government have failed. We're now on the second. If Mr Topolanek gets nowhere, the last chance goes to the speaker of the lower house, a position held by the Social Democrats.

Mirek Topolanek, photo: CTKMirek Topolanek, photo: CTK But what are we to make of this latest twist? It's five months since elections left parliament split down the middle and the country in political limbo. There have been marathon talks, endless proposals, press conferences late in the night. And yet the Czech Republic still has no government. Which raises the question - do the politicians have some sort of master plan, or are they just making it up as they go along? Jiri Pehe, political analyst and former adviser to President Vaclav Havel:

"I think that both Mr Klaus and to some extent Mr Paroubek have a clear strategy. They would like to create a grand coalition. They have realised, for different reasons, that there is little chance of creating a government based on either the Social Democratic Party or the Civic Democrats only. Not to speak of the fact that a grand coalition would be the best solution for President Klaus, who is facing re-election in fourteen months. However, Mr Topolanek has stubbornly rejected this solution, and the fact that Mr Klaus has now appointed him for the second time may actually be Klaus's revenge."

Jiri Paroubek, photo: CTKJiri Paroubek, photo: CTK Klaus's revenge? Well, let's wait and see just what Mr Topolanek does with his second chance at forming a government. But what of Jiri Paroubek? What did he make of President Klaus's announcement? Dita Asiedu spoke to him.

"It was not a great surprise. I expected it because I made an analysis so I've known the behaviour of President Klaus for a long time. It is a logical result of his behaviour."

The president also blamed the Social Democrats and said it was because of the party that this country does not have a government five months after the elections.

"I must reject that, because it is not true. The president simplified the situation...I must reject that."

You have been saying that you would like to have a grand coalition. What else, what other way out, would you support?

"I think the idea of a grand coalition is a realistic and good idea in this situation. It is the only one possibility to construct a government with majority support in parliament. And in this type of solution...I've said I don't want to be in the government but to be only a deputy of the parliament."

You said that would be the only possible way of having a majority in parliament. But another possible way would be what was proposed by the president on Friday - a rainbow coalition [of all parties in the Chamber excluding the Communists]. Why do you oppose that?

"The president thought that a so-called coalition of four political parties could be possible...I think that is not a realistic solution. Because it is impossible to prepare a realistic compromise between these four political parties."

Under what conditions would you support a minority Civic Democrat government?

"It is impossible to say in a few words, in a few sentences. It is a matter of future negotiations."

You said earlier that one condition would be that it would just be temporary, until elections in 2008.

"I think that for us it is a suitable condition, to prepare premature elections in two years. I think it could be a realistic solution."

The people of the Czech Republic have heard the phrase "realistic solution" countless times over the last five months. But at the moment it remains just that - a phrase, and nothing else.

07-11-2006