Czech government crisis sees no sign of abating

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The crisis in the Czech government is showing no sign of abating. Prime Minister Stanislav Gross announced on Sunday evening that his minority government will seek a vote of confidence in parliament. The decision came under huge pressure from President Vaclav Klaus. So, what does Mr Gross' latest announcement mean?

Prime Minister Stanislav Gross, photo: CTK
On Sunday, Prime Minister Stanislav Gross told a group of journalists, among them, Radio Prague's Dita Asiedu, that his minority government will seek a vote of confidence in parliament. The decision came under huge pressure from President Vaclav Klaus. Dita is with me in the studio now. What does Mr Gross' latest announcement mean?

I have to explain first that since Thursday last week, the internal make-up of the government has changed dramatically. On Thursday, the Christian Democrats pulled out of the ruling coalition, leaving just the main party, the Social Democrats, and the smaller Freedom Union. On Friday, after the government narrowly survived a no confidence vote in parliament, only thanks to the far-left, in the form of the Communists who abstained from the vote, the Freedom Union said they would pull out too unless the entire cabinet resigned to be replaced by new ministers.

So, this means that, at the moment, the government is a minority government of the Social Democrats and the Freedom Union with a mere 80 seats in the 200 seat Chamber of Deputies. Where does the vote of confidence come in?

President Vaclav Klaus, photo: CTK
Well, after it became clear on Friday that the government could only survive with the support of the Communists, President Klaus - who is the honorary chairman of the right-wing oppostion Civic Democrats - made quite a clever move by declaring he would not appoint any new ministers until Prime Minister Gross assured him of parliamentary support through a vote of confidence. Although the prime minister is not bound to this under the constitution, he is well aware that the president can draw out the appointment for as long as he likes and that is why he is calling for the vote of confidence.

Do you think he'll get it?

That is far from clear at this stage, but if he does, it will once again, be thanks to the Communists. Much to the irritation of other parties they are relishing their new-found influence. They have said that they consider a minority government of the Social Democrats as the lesser of two evils - compared with the possibility of the right-wing Civic Democrats coming to power, but at this stage we just don't know how they'll vote.