Czech prime minister fighting for political survival

Mirek Topolanek, photo: CTK

Seven months ago Mirek Topolanek was the toast of the right wing Civic Democratic Party. The man who led his party to six election victories had triumphed in the elections and after eight long years in the opposition benches his Civic Democrats were ready to take over the reigns of power. Seven long months later the country lacks a stable government, the prime minister is seen as a failure and his party is racked by internal conflict.

Mirek Topolanek, photo: CTK
The seven months of futile negotiations have undermined the prime minister's position both within his party and on the Czech political scene. At a stormy party meeting on Wednesday senior members of the party leadership warned Mr.Topolanek that his second attempt at forming a government would be his last. If his coalition government failed to win a vote of confidence yet again - he should "take a back seat" and let someone else lead the negotiations. Political analyst Vladimira Dvorakova says that Mr. Topolanek's failure to capitalize on the party's election victory has sown internal strife and the prime minister is now fighting for political survival:

"I think that the Civic Democratic Party is weakened. There was never real unity in the party but before all internal disputes were discussed inside the party and now for the first time we see open criticism of the prime minister and his way of conducting the government negotiations. And this is connected with the fact that the president is very dissatisfied with the new cabinet proposed by Mirek Topolanek and President Klaus still has a strong position within the Civic Democratic Party and is supported by some party members."

President Vaclav Klaus and Jiri Paroubek, photo: CTK
The prime minister's second attempt at forming a cabinet is not going well. President Klaus has criticized both its line up and the fact the Mr. Topolanek had not managed to secure majority support for it in the lower house. Although he is bound by the Constitution to appoint whatever cabinet the prime minister proposes the president has not said when he would do so. The delay is a silent rebuke - and the prime minister's main rival Social Democrat leader Jiri Paroubek has been quick to act on it. He has once again proposed a grand coalition with the Civic Democrats - but with someone other than Mirek Topolanek. The fact that the president was ready to receive him to hear out this proposal is another slap in the face for the Czech prime minister.