Nečas appointed new prime minister, promises 'hard work, not politicking'

The Czech Republic has a new prime minister and is on track for a new government, after more than a year of political limbo caused by the downfall of Mirek Topolánek’s centre-right coalition. Petr Nečas was appointed by President Klaus in a brief ceremony at Prague Castle on Monday morning. He’ll head a centre-right government that promises austerity measures to tame the budget deficit and a concerted campaign against corruption.

Petr Nečas (left), Václav Klaus, photo: CTKPetr Nečas (left), Václav Klaus, photo: CTK A guard of honour marched into one of the many state rooms inside Prague Castle as 45-year-old Petr Nečas, leader of the centre-right Civic Democratic Party, stood to attention and waited for the arrival of President Václav Klaus. It was a touch of pomp and ceremony in what was otherwise a brief and businesslike appointment. And as President Klaus pointed out, it was not his first:

“I have to say that this is the sixth prime minister I’ve appointed in seven and a quarter years as president. That’s quite a lot, and certainly doesn’t suggest exceptionally stable government. So I’d like to express my wish that I won’t be appointing any more prime ministers, and hope that you will remain prime minister at least until the end of my term as president. I look forward to working with you.”

President Klaus – who founded the Civic Democrats back in 1991 – noted that he’d known Petr Nečas for almost two decades, remarking that even at their first meeting Mr Nečas had struck him as a young man with a bright political future ahead of him. The tall bespectacled physicist - the Czech Republic’s ninth prime minister since the country became independent – said he was under no illusions about the mountain of work in his in-tray:

Petr Nečas, Václav Klaus, photo: CTKPetr Nečas, Václav Klaus, photo: CTK “This country needs a stable government, it needs an efficient government, it needs a government that will really work to address the fundamental problems facing this country. First and foremost we must work actively on a budget for 2011 and for the years to follow. The citizens of this country expect this government to focus on hard work rather than political point-scoring, and I want to assure you that this is my goal.”

But while Petr Nečas now has the keys to the magnificent government headquarters on the banks of the River Vltava, he doesn’t actually have any ministers, or at least not yet. Coalition talks with his two potential allies appear to have become snagged on who will fill the crucial ministries of finance and the interior – obviously key jobs in a government with its sights firmly set on eliminating deficits and bribes.

Until a new government is formed the Czech Republic finds itself in the curious situation of having two prime ministers – the caretaker leader Jan Fischer, who has formally resigned but is still running the country, and Petr Nečas, who is busy putting together a coalition and a cabinet.