Two months after election no solution to political deadlock in sight

02-08-2006

This Wednesday marks two months since the Czechs went to the polls to vote on the country's next government - an election won by the right-of-centre opposition Civic Democrats - but an election that ended in stalemate across the political spectrum. In the days following the result, outgoing Social Democrat Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek promised that his political opponents would not be able to so much as "wash their hands" without Social Democrat approval and, so far at least, he has kept his promise to a "t".

Miroslav Kalousek, Mirek Topolanek and Martin Bursik, photo: CTKMiroslav Kalousek, Mirek Topolanek and Martin Bursik, photo: CTK The results of June's parliamentary election - an even split along leftist and rightist parties in the 200-member parliament promised that negotiations on any new government wouldn't be easy. 62 days after Czechs went to the polls, reality is setting in ever deeper: the proposed "Three Party coalition", the centre-right grouping which includes the Civic Democrats, the Christian Democrats, and the Greens, remains one mandate short of a majority and now seems less likely than ever to gain support from the Social Democrats.

Until now, for example, neither side has been able to agree on any kind of parliamentary trade-off - for example the post of speaker of the lower house in return for tolerance by the Social Democrats during a confidence vote. Instead, on Tuesday Prime Minister and Social Democrat leader Jiri Paroubek once again indicated that as far as his party was concerned, the Three Party coalition was no longer a viable concept:

"Let me repeat in all seriousness that from the point of view of the Social Democratic Party the three-party concept is now 'closed'. I have to say that we're ready to negotiate, although there too, proposals put forward by the Civic Democrats and their political partners have become increasingly less acceptable."

Mirek Topolanek, photo: CTKMirek Topolanek, photo: CTK Mr Paroubek's statement likewise rejects the Three Party coalition heads' latest proposal this week that they would accept even a limited mandate of one year; leading up to early elections. The idea would be to address only key issues such as the state budget, as well as changes to the electoral system, including to change the number of MPs in parliament from 200 to either 199 or 201 - in order to help prevent ties and ensuing deadlock. Civic Democrat leader Mirek Topolanek:

Jiri Paroubek, photo: CTKJiri Paroubek, photo: CTK "Of course they're difficult goals to reach, but the changes we'd like to see to the electoral system - based on mutual agreement - should be one of the first priorities for any new government that takes the reins."

From here it remains unclear what move the Three Party coalition - or even the Civic Democrats who won the election - will consider next. Later this week, Mr Topolanek will meet with the Czech president to explain the latest developments and perhaps possible solutions, but it difficult to fathom at this time just what those might be.

Outgoing Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek, on the other hand, has already put together his own proposal and met with President Klaus on Tuesday. But, afterwards he failed to reveal any details on what solutions he might offer. As it stands now: although negotiations continue, two months after the election there is no breakthrough in sight.

02-08-2006