Christian Democrats fight over political ethics

When the Four-Party Coalition emerged as an alternative to the present power-sharing pact between the ruling Social Democrats and the right-of-centre Civic Democratic Party, they promised Czech voters a new style of leadership and political ethics - something that critics say the two parties have failed to provide. As a result, support for the Four-Party Coalition in the polls shot up, but the foretaste of power and the intense media attention have shown them - and the public - just how difficult it may be to deliver on that promise. Daniela Lazarova has more.

Just a few weeks after treating the public to an undignified scramble for seats in the shadow Cabinet, one of the four parties - the Christian Democrats - are now embroiled in a very public fight over political ethics. At the centre of the row is Miroslav Kalousek, former deputy at the Defence Ministry, who's been tarnished by several dubious transactions at the ministry. Mr Cyril Svoboda, who resigned as leader of the Four-Party Coalition over the controversy, says that in a politician even a shadow of doubt cannot be tolerated. But the Christian Democrat leadership has chosen to support Miroslav Kalousek, saying that since there was no tangible proof against him, Mr Svoboda should apologise.

The whole affair is being observed with apprehension by the remaining three parties in the Coalition, whose own fate depends on the Christian Democrats' ability to come out of this affair unscathed. I asked Four-Party Coalition leader Karel Kuhnl whether the present row was a serious threat to the alliance.

"In a way it is very serious because it does expose some problems in the parties which form the quad coalition. I don't think that it is purely a matter of principle. For some it is, for others it is a matter of infighting within a political party."

Well if we look at the core of controversy we are talking about a politician whose reputation is not entirely snow-white. There is a lot of doubt there although there is no proof, and what they seem to be at odds over is whether the presumption of innocence principle applies to politicians as well or whether they should be judged by stricter principles...

"I think that the mere fact that the above mentioned politician Mr Kalousek has resigned his post in the shadow Cabinet shows that people are listening to the signals we are sending and I am very grateful that he has taken this step and left the shadow cabinet which is now able to work without this burden."

Any problems in the Four-Party Coalition are watched with gratification not just by their present political rivals - the Civic and Social Democrats - but also by those waiting in the wings to fill the void should the alliance disintegrate. A new centre party of intellectuals and entrepreneurs is allegedly in the pipeline - ready to promise voters a new style of leadership and political ethics.