Czech government to seek confidence vote in Parliament

Cyril Svoboda, Vladimir Spidla and press secretary Slavomir Novotny, photo: CTK

The Czech government delegation to the EU summit in Brussels returned home to an ongoing domestic crisis. While other EU heads of government faced criticism over the adoption of the first European Constitution, the Czech Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla is literally fighting a battle for survival. Following a stormy debate over the weekend, he has decided to put not only his own future but that of the entire Cabinet on the line - by calling a vote of confidence in the three party governing coalition.

Cyril Svoboda,  Vladimir Spidla and press secretary Slavomir Novotny,  photo: CTK
It was champagne and congratulations all round in Brussels as the expanded EU agreed on the adoption of the first ever European constitution. The Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda:

"The constitution is a good result, because it will make the EU more flexible, more effective and I believe that when we get some experience, personal experience, with EU institutions we will say that the result we have achieved today is a good result for everybody."

But just hours later, the Prime Minister walked back into the lion's den to face calls for his resignation both as head of government and party leader. The party's humiliating defeat in the recent Euro elections triggered a storm of criticism from the two opposition parties and further intensified the power struggle within the Prime Minister's own party, the Social Democrats. The opposition Civic Democrats suggest that the present cabinet no longer has a mandate to decide anything -at home or abroad - and members of the leading party in government are demanding radical action that would enable the party to stay in government. Having adamantly refused a vote of confidence just a week ago, the embattled Prime Minister has now made a complete U turn. At a stormy meeting of regional party leaders this weekend Mr. Spidla announced his intention to ask Parliament for a vote of confidence in the Cabinet before a crucial meeting of the party's executive committee scheduled for Saturday, June 26th, which will decide his fate. If the Cabinet wins the vote, it would greatly enhance Mr. Spidla's chances of remaining party leader and head of government.

Vladimir Spidla,  photo: CTK
Securing those votes will be the prime minister's main concern in the coming days - and it will be no easy task. Even at the best of times, the three party coalition could only rely on its razor thin majority of 101 votes. But, in the course of the past year, two members of the governing coalition left party ranks and it is not clear how they will vote. Moreover, many deputies of the Prime Minister's own party are dissatisfied with the present state of affairs and are calling for change.

The question is -when it comes to the crunch - will governing party deputies put their own future at risk by voting against the government or will they try to effect some compromise solution and let the Social Democratic Party deal with this crisis on home ground. Mr. Spidla has made his own position quite clear - if he goes, he'll bring the Cabinet down with him. It is a risky tactic that has worked for him in the past.