Civic Democrat leader entrusted with the task of forming a new cabinet

Mirek Topolanek and President Klaus, photo: CTK

It was an eventful day at Prague Castle on Wednesday. The outgoing Social Democrat prime minister Jiri Paroubek arrived to hand over his government's resignation to President Klaus and less than two hours later Civic Democratic party leader Mirek Topolanek was appointed prime minister designate. As the cameras flashed, Mr. Topolanek said he was hoping to present the country with a new government within a matter of weeks.

Mirek Topolanek and President Klaus, photo: CTK
However political analysts predict that the wrangling which followed the inconclusive general elections is not over by far. Due to the even division of forces between right and left parties in the lower house, Mr. Topolanek still has to reach agreement with the Social Democrats on a minority Civic Democrat cabinet - and then ask Parliament for a vote of confidence. Meanwhile, the conditions which the Social Democrats are laying down get tougher by the day - they now want to approve the entire government line up and have a big say in the government's policy programme. So whose government would this be - that of election winner Mirek Topolanek or his opposition rival Jiri Paroubek? Political analyst Petr Just:

"If the Social Democrats influence both the policy programme and the government set up then we could call such a government a grand coalition not just a minority Civic Democrat government."

We have heard Mr. Topolanek say over and over again that he would not accept such a thing. Do you believe that still holds?

Mirek Topolanek, photo: CTK
"Well, on the one hand he is right because he is the prime minister and as such it is his privilege -his prerogative - to nominate cabinet ministers. However, Mr. Paroubek is a very tough player, a very hard opponent and to be frank he can blackmail Mr. Topolanek by telling him that he'll either accept the conditions or he will not have a government. So we may see Mr. Topolanek accepting some changes and appointing some ministers according to Mr. Paroubek's wishes."

What are the chances of the prime minister designate saying this is simply not worth it - and choosing early elections over this alternative. We've already heard Mr. Paroubek say that he would only support a minority government with a limited two year mandate anyway. So what are the chances of early elections in the Czech Republic?

"Actually I think that the political situation will most likely lead to early elections - the only question is when. Mr. Topolanek has said that if there are to be early elections they should take place sometime next year because it would not be pragmatic to hold early elections shortly before the Czech EU presidency scheduled for the first half of 2009. Mr. Paroubek on the other hand is talking about early elections in 2008. It will all depend on the agreement reached between the Civic and Social Democrats. A written agreement between them could set the date for early elections or state under what conditions they would take place."

Jiri Paroubek, photo: CTK
If they should agree on a government - how viable and how operable would such a cabinet be?

"It would be a minority government and any minority government has a harder time in office. It is clear that Mr. Topolanek would have to back down on some of his election promises - on some parts of his party's policy programme such as the much discussed flat tax. And some Civic Democrat voters might find this hard to accept."

Would they see it as a betrayal?

"They could. That will depend on Mr. Topolanek's diplomatic skills - on his ability to explain to his party's supporters that there was no better alternative under the given circumstances, much will pdepend on how he handles the PR of his government so to speak."