Fate of Czech government in hands of party rebel

Vlastimil Tlusty, photo: CTK

Just over a hundred days after taking office, the fate of the coalition government is in the hands of one man - a rebel MP from Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek's own Civic Democrats. Former finance minister Vlastimil Tlusty has challenged a package of tax and welfare reforms proposed by the government, and on Thursday put forward one of his own. The prime minister, who has staked the coalition's fate on the reform bill being passed, rejected the proposal. He said that while some of Mr. Tlusty's ideas were superb, they could not take precedence over agreements reached between the three coalition parties. However, due to the government's fragile majority, Vlastimil Tlusty is now in a position to sabotage the reforms and consequently bring down the government.

Vlastimil Tlusty,  photo: CTK
So is he serious or is he bluffing? A question for political analyst Jiri Pehe:

"Vlastimil Tlusty has nothing to lose. He has been sidelined in the Civic Democratic Party and unless Mr. Topolanek elevates Mr. Tlusty - either by recognizing some of his proposals or elevating him in rank - Vlastimil Tlusty can really rock the boat and for him this may ultimately be the best solution. He knows that if the government falls he will be criticized by some people in the Civic Democratic Party but on the other hand he knows that such a step would almost certainly end the political career of Mirek Topolanek who is now his Nemesis, so to speak. So I do not think that Mr. Tlusty is acting in an irrational way. Moreover it is well known that Mr. Tlusty is a very close associate of President Klaus who does not like Mr. Topolanek or his coalition government. Although the President recently attempted to discipline Mr. Tlusty, telling him that he should not sabotage the government's reforms, ultimately I do not think that the President would be too upset if Mr. Topolanek's government collapsed."

What does this mean for the country's future?

Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek,  photo: CTK
"Well, if the government falls there would be negotiations about forming a new government. It could be a minority government of the Civic Democrats and Christian Democrats, or a government of the current three parties, or it could be a grand coalition but in my opinion negotiations about forming a new government are much more likely than early elections because at this point I don't think it is in the interest of the Social Democrats and the Communists to have early elections and as long as they are not interested in early elections it would be almost impossible to trigger early elections."

What is the position of the Prime Minister now - is he so weak that Mr. Tlusty may succeed in bringing him down?

"I think that unless Mr. Topolanek has some alternative solution - like knowing that there are some other opposition deputies who would support his reforms- then I think he is really in trouble at this point because it is clear that Mr. Tlusty has decided to play hard ball and he is not going to give up. Unless Mr. Topolanek accommodates him somehow or other he can easily bring the government down and then perhaps try to regain his former influence in the party."