Government talks begin anew

Jiri Parooubek and Mirek Topolanek, photo: CTK

After four months of futile negotiations, talks on forming a new Czech government are back to square one. President Klaus on Monday started a new round of talks with all parliamentary parties on the options that remain open.

Jiri Paroubek and Mirek Topolanek,  photo: CTK
Although the maneuvering space has significantly decreased, Social Democrat leader Jiri Paroubek on Sunday surprised both his political opponents and the public by proposing a grand coalition where he would have no role in government. But after all that's been said and done, does this really present an alternative to early elections? Daniela Lazarova spoke to political analyst Petr Just:

"There are really just two realistic options -at least in my opinion - the first is a grand coalition which is now back on the table after Social Democrat leader Jiri Paroubek said on Sunday that he would be able to accept such a solution and the second option is a caretaker government that would lead the country to early elections in 2007."

But the Civic Democratic Party has rejected Mr. Paroubek's offer of a grand coalition, so how would that work?

Jiri Paroubek,  photo: CTK
"Well, we should consider why Mr. Paroubek is talking about a grand coalition all of a sudden. He wants to bring the Social Democrats - and possibly himself - back to power. He is considering the options and, as I said, the only realistic options appear to be a grand coalition or early elections. Now Mr. Paroubek is against early elections for the simple reason that opinion polls indicate his party would do poorly in an early election. Among other factors that are limiting Mr. Paroubek's maneuvering space are the recent statements by President Klaus who first refused to appoint a government that would have to lean on the Communists for support and who has now said he would not appoint a government which would be dependant on one flopper, as he put it. Therefore a grand coalition is seen by Mr. Paroubek as the only option. Of course we know that the Civic Democrats have so far rejected the idea of a grand coalition, but only this morning I read in an internet daily that Civic Democrat vice-chairman Petr Bendl is saying that the party should at least discuss the possibility of a grand coalition and the possible programme of such a government. Therefore I do not think that the question of a grand coalition is quite closed within the Civic Democratic Party."

Do you feel that the president also might be more inclined towards a grand coalition?

Vaclav Klaus,  photo: CTK
"It has been said several times that Mr. Klaus would indeed favour a grand coalition. He has always rejected the idea as nonsensical and we cannot see into his head. But it is something of a public secret that he would favour such a set-up."

So what are the chances of the Civic Democratic Party accepting a grand-coalition?

"It will depend on the party conference that will be held in November. Mr. Topolanek will explain to his party colleagues how he led the post-election negotiations and will defend his decisions. We can expect a debate on the matter and an assessment of whether he was right or wrong in rejecting a grand coalition. If the majority of delegates vote that the party should at least enter into negotiations on a grand coalition then things will move in that direction."

Mirek Topolanek,  photo: CTK
On the other hand, opinion polls show that the Civic Democratic Party is now very strong. The Social Democrats are lagging almost ten percentage points behind them. Would it not make sense for them to push as hard as they can for early elections now?

"Well, they are trying to do that. Mr. Topolanek has repeatedly said that early elections are the only way out of the deadlock. He is also putting pressure on other political parties and the Senate to allow early elections. So clearly Mr. Topolanek is pursuing that line of thought."