Comments by PM's aide complicate negotiations
After what initially appeared to be a breakthrough in government negotiations last week, politicians in the Czech Republic are back at square one. On Sunday the Social Democrats led by Jiri Paroubek rejected a proposal by Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek to join a four-party coalition that would have run the country until 2008. The party rejected the deal on the grounds that a year-an-a-half or so in office was simply too short. Trust, or lack of it, may also have played a part, after it came to light that a close aide to the prime minister had made disparaging comments about the Social Democrats and their chances in being in the next government.
"I'm not in the position of the prime minister but I do think that [Mr Dalik's actions] crossed the line in terms of prudent cooperation between the aide and the prime minister. [In his place] I would have to draw some conclusions. "
So, what exactly did Mr Dalik say? According to Mlada Fronta Dnes, he boasted about how the Civic Democrats would essentially play the Social Democrats for fools, eventually dropping them from negotiations. He also claimed that he had won over a number of their deputies to back a centre-right government made up only of the Civic Democrats, the Christian Democrats and the Greens. This despite the fact that in the past Prime Minister Topolanek has said he rejected the idea of any government leaning on support from rogue MPs.
"We discussed it within the negotiation team and came to the conclusion that we couldn't back a government that would have a mandate only lasting until the spring of 2008."
Negotiations are back at square one and the four-party deal appears dead in the water. Try as they might, politicians on the Czech scene have now been unable to break the political deadlock for the better part of six months. In the end, it was not the prime minister but the Social Democrats on Sunday who came forward with the latest initiative. Titled "Agenda 2010", their plan envisages a three-party coalition: the Social, the Civic and the Christian Democrats in one cabinet for the next four years. Given the parties' inability to reach consensus so far, many observers remain sceptical that even now party negotiators will be able to agree on a deal any time soon.