Czech government saga continues

Jiri Cunek, Mirek Topolanek and Martin Bursik, photo: CTK

On Thursday Czech politicians added another chapter to the seemingly endless political saga on forming a government. The Civic Democrats, Christian Democrats and the Greens signed an agreement on a centre right coalition. But is it really a step towards giving the country a stable leadership, or just another in a series of drawn-out maneuvers leading to early elections?

Jiri Cunek,  Mirek Topolanek and Martin Bursik,  photo: CTK
The signing of an agreement on a centre right coalition has made very little impact on a public that is suffering from politics-fatigue. After six months of futile negotiations and failed attempts at forming a cabinet, Czechs see this for what it is - merely another twirl in a very long political dance.

It is Prime Minister Topolanek's second attempt at forming a government and it is not going well. His first minority government - featuring the same three parties - was rejected by the lower house in September. His second attempt came under fire from the president last week, yet despite the president's rejection Mr. Topolanek went ahead and sealed the deal with the Christian Democrats and the Greens. Political analyst Vladimira Dvorakova says that it is obvious that this cabinet is not meant to last:

"I think that the new cabinet is not intended to implement reform, as is declared, but to eventually bring about early elections. I believe that is the reason why Mr. Topolanek was happy to let go the finance ministry and other key posts in government. At this point he is primarily interested in gaining a vote of confidence and then taking the country to early elections."

Mirek Topolanek,  photo: CTK
The country has been treading water ever since the June general elections ended in stalemate and the futile talks have destabilized the Czech political scene. The country's two biggest parties are now racked by internal conflict - stemming from how their leaders have conducted the negotiations. Could this be a sign that the Czech constitution needs amending in a way that would ease the way to early elections? Vladimira Dvorakova says it is not the constitution which is at fault but the lack of political culture and political responsibility.

"I am not sure that it is necessary to change the Constitution. In many Western states there are constitutional provisions complicating the way to early elections. Early elections should always be the very last solution. Constitutions are not tailored to make it easier for politicians to govern. They should make politicians search for a compromise, to search for consensus. The public made a certain decision and politicians are obliged to try and solve the problem. And only if there are really very important reasons why they are not able to do that there can be early elections. But here politicians seem to say - well, we don't like the election result so we shall try again. Maybe the public will decide differently the next time round. And this is very irresponsible."

The fate of this coalition agreement remains uncertain. Although President Klaus is bound by the Constitution to appoint whatever cabinet the prime minister presents him with, he is not bound by a time limit and may decide to procrastinate. Even if he appoints it without further delay, it is not at all clear whether this government would be able to win a confidence vote in the lower house.