Fate of reforms uncertain as weakened government comes under fire
The heat is on Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek’s centre right government. Half-way though implementing its programme of fiscal reforms it is racked by internal conflict, under fire from the opposition and growing pressure from trade unions. There are now serious doubts as to whether it can meet its set goals.
Whether or not the opposition is behind the growing trade union protests, it is certainly taking full advantage of the government’s crisis. Last week the Social Democrats called for early elections and advised the prime minister to sort out his problems or resign. Moreover, the Social Democrats are now refusing to pair-off absent deputies in the lower house, a practice that enabled cabinet ministers to go on foreign visits and attend sessions of the EC. Not a happy state of affairs for a country which is expected to take over the EU presidency in January of 2009. So could this be the end of the road for the Topolánek government? Political analyst Jiři Pehe says that is unlikely, simply because it is in the opposition’s best interests to retain the status quo.
“It is not in the interest of the opposition Social Democrats to trigger early elections or a serious government crisis right now. I think that the Social Democrats realize that it is to their best advantage to keep this weak government in power – especially in view of the upcoming regional and Senate elections as well as elections to the European Parliament next year. The opposition has everything to gain from maintaining the present state of affairs.”
So you predict that the government will survive, but will remain very weak?
“I think the government will remain in office, it will be very weak and will be more-or-less tolerated by the Social Democrats. If I may venture a guess, I would say that the Social Democrats will not even risk calling a vote of no-confidence in the government over the next few months because this time around it could succeed and that is not in their interest.”