Coalition talks collapse (again) as Topolanek turns back on Social Democrats
Lengthy talks on forming a broad coalition government collapsed on Wednesday evening in an abrupt twist in the six-month political saga since inconclusive parliamentary elections in June. The right-of-centre Civic Democrats, who are running the country in what is essentially a provisional government, announced they were breaking off talks with the leftist Social Democrats.
Civic Democrat leader Mirek Topolanek told the media the talks had collapsed because the two parties couldn't agree on major differences such as tax reform and the make-up of the new cabinet. But there's speculation that the Civic Democrats are betting on one or possibly two Social Democrat MPs crossing the floor and supporting a centre-right government in vote of confidence.
But Milos Melcak is sending out mixed messages. In one newspaper interview he said he would support such a government, in another he said it was premature to count on his support. His departure has also raised speculation about what he was offered - if anything - to betray his party and vote with the right. He denies he was offered anything. He says the country simply needs a government after six months in limbo.
The president, Vaclav Klaus, has also said he doesn't want a government based on the support of a few rebel MPs, although under the constitution he can only refuse to appoint individual ministers and cannot reject the government as a whole.
Meanwhile, Social Democrat leader Jiri Paroubek has called on the president not to allow such a government to be formed, and has insisted on a meeting.
And finally, some analysts claim that Mr Topolanek and the Civic Democrats know in advance that such a shaky government is doomed to fail, and all this is just a way to bring early elections one step closer.