Four party coalition's shadow cabinet marked by controversy

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Predictions that forming a Four-Party Coalition shadow cabinet would bring to a head growing tension in the Coalition's strongest party - the Christian Democrats - came true over the weekend. Although the four parties did finally manage to produce a 16-member shadow cabinet, there was a major behind-the-scenes battle which resulted in the unexpected resignation of Cyril Svoboda as leader of the Four-Party Coalition.

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Predictions that forming a Four-Party Coalition shadow cabinet would bring to a head growing tension in the Coalition's strongest party - the Christian Democrats - came true over the weekend. Although the four parties did finally manage to produce a 16-member shadow cabinet, there was a major behind-the-scenes battle which resulted in the unexpected resignation of Cyril Svoboda as leader of the Four-Party Coalition. While the Christian Democrats fought their internal battles, the Coalition's second major player - the Freedom Union - improved its standing, with Freedom Union leader Karel Kuhnl replacing Svoboda both as party leader and shadow Prime Minister. In a phone interview earlier today Mr Svoboda admitted that lack of support from his own party had forced him to resign.

"That's right....not my party, but the party's three deputy chairmen, they didn't support me ... that is the problem. I am convinced that I have deeply rooted authority in my party, but there is an inter-personal conflict at the top level of the party's management. It's a very sad story and very painful, but that's the reality."

But the Christian Democrats are the strongest party of the four party coalition, and yet this party is now torn by controversy. Will this not seriously damage the image of the four party coalition as such?

"This is a very dangerous phenomenon. But I still believe that the coalition of four is capable of being "a new chance" for the Czech Republic. For me it was a question of principle. A new style. A new style in thinking , in attitude , in politics and that is of utmost importance to me, and with this in mind, I am ready to give up my position and give more space to others who may be more successful than I was."

Yes, but the controversy is not centred around your person as such. There seems to be a lot of controversy elsewhere in the party.....

"That is the reality. But there is a party congress coming up and I think that we will be successful in finding our rightful place in the coalition of four and now I am ready to support the new shadow cabinet."

If the party has such serious problems forming a shadow cabinet - which is not even a real division of power - do you think it can stick together until the next elections?

"The shadow cabinet is a symbol. Politics is full of symbols. And for me it is very important to give the public a new signal. On my list there were 14 people. 9 of them had never been in any former cabinet. 9 of them spoke foreign languages. 4 of them had experience from abroad. I thought it was a chance for this country to nominate a completely new team, but this put me in conflict with the political parties because they thought that the only way of attracting voter support was to nominate people from the top party structures......"

Let's talk about one more thing. Your election was welcomed by the Social Democrats as a very promising development. They said they could cooperate with you as head of the Four Party Coalition. Does Karel Kuhnl's election mean a swing to the right?

"I believe that after the elections we will be capable of forming a coalition with either of our two potential partners - that is the Social Democrats or the Civic Democrats - because the decision will be in the hands of the Christian Democrats as well."

That was Mr. Cyril Svoboda, the former leader of the four party coalition, commenting on the reasons behind his unexpected resignation this weekend.