Caretaker cabinet would take office before end of EU presidency under reported provisional agreement between parties

Mirek Topolánek, photo: CTK

A week after the Czech government lost a vote of no-confidence, the main players appear to have reached agreement on a way out of the crisis. Early elections look set to take place in the middle of October and a caretaker government could be in place by the end of April – that is, before the end of the Czech presidency of the European Union.

Mirek Topolánek, photo: CTK
Last Tuesday the opposition brought down the government of Mirek Topolánek in a vote of no-confidence, less than half-way through the Czech Republic’s six-month presidency of the European Union.

The coalition’s unexpected demise greatly strengthened the hand of the prime minister’s rival President Václav Klaus, who said he wanted to charge somebody with forming a new government ASAP. Fear of Mr Klaus seems to be what led the three parties in the outgoing government and the party that torpedoed the coalition – the Social Democrats – to work together to find a way out of the crisis.

Jiří Paroubek, photo: CTK
On Tuesday evening the leaders of the Civic Democrats, Christian Democrats and Greens told reporters they had reached a preliminary agreement with the Social Democrats on early elections, with the dates October 16 and 17 in the frame.

More importantly in international terms, the government and the main opposition grouping have apparently agreed on the formation of a caretaker cabinet that would take office before the end of Czech presidency of the European Union. What Prime Minister Topolánek has referred to as a “summer interim government” could even be in place by the end of April, a full two months before the Czech presidency ends.

As for its make-up, reports suggest both sides would nominate half the members of a 16-person cabinet of technocrats, with the Social Democrats promising to discuss their choices with the Communists, who helped them sink the government last week.

The Czech media reports that a handful of people are in contention to head the new government, though their have been contradictory claims as to whether the four parties have actually discussed names yet. Social Democrats boss Jiří Paroubek says the new prime minister will become known in the very near future.

Mr Topolánek warned on Tuesday of a constitutional crisis if Václav Klaus refused to go along with the compromise reached by the parties. A spokesman said the president would accept any deal, though he has taken umbrage with the term “summer interim government”, which he regards as insufficiently serious.

Intensive discussions between the parties are set to continue for several more days, with the aim of striking a deal by the start of next week. However, it must be stated that Prime Minister Topolánek on Wednesday cast doubt on some of the statements attributed to other leaders. Given the usual way of Czech politics, we could be in for a few more twists before a caretaker government is actually formed.