Fragile centre-right government faces key no-confidence vote

Vlastimil Tlustý

The opposition Social Democrats have tried four times before to topple the country’s fragile centre-right government and failed. But this Tuesday’s vote sees them closer than ever to success. On Sunday, they received a potential boost when rebel Civic Democrat MP Vlastimil Tlustý – a long-time rival of the prime minister’s - said the cup had “overflowed”, indicating that he might vote against, coordinating his decision with others. Together, the votes of several rebel as well as independent MPs could then be enough to tip the scales.

Vlastimil Tlustý
Halfway into the Czech EU presidency, Mirek Topolánek’s government is arguably facing its toughest test: a key vote of no-confidence on Tuesday, with the future of the cabinet in doubt. Civic Democrat rebels - dissatisfied with their party on everything from taxation to the Lisbon Treaty, as well as former Green Party members recently expelled from their party ranks, hold the key. A little earlier I spoke to Petr Just, a well-known political analyst:

“Definitely this time the government is in its most dangerous position since its start. All four previous attempts to topple the government were considered unsuccessful even before they took place. This time the situation is a bit different and the possibility that the government could fall is much more likely. It will all depend more or less on five people – three Civic Democrats and two former Greens.”

As it stands the coalition of the Civic Democrats, the Christian Democrats and the Greens can count on 96 votes in the 200-member lower house, while the opposition stand one better. That means a handful of individuals will mean the difference. But even ahead of the difficult vote, the government may have some advantages in its favour: first, it may still be possible for it to reach some kind of agreement in return for concessions. Second, though opposed to the cabinet, not all rebel MPs may be willing to bring down the government during period of economic and political difficulty: the country is in the midst of economic downturn and also half-way through the EU presidency. Analyst Petr Just once again:

Olga Zubová,  photo: CTK
“This would be an argument for the two former Greens, although less for the Civic Democrat rebels. I think that maybe Mrs Jakubková and Mrs Zubová may accept take this as a strong argument for not backing Tuesday’s vote initiated by the opposition. Many questions remain, though they appear split on whether to support the government or not.”

Should the government fall, some suggested that it could stay on through the end of the EU presidency, even as politicians hammered out the next steps. That scenario has already been rejected by the prime minister. On Monday he warned he was not in favour of such a scenario if his government fell, nor was he in favour of forming a caretaker government - the most obvious route out of such a crisis, in his view, being early elections.