Government talks evoke restrained optimism

Mirek Topolanek, photo: CTK

It appears the Civic Democrats and the Social Democrats are close to agreeing a deal that would see them divide up power in a new government. The former are no longer insisting on early elections, the latter say they would now tolerate the presence of smaller parties in the cabinet. But had the two big players really, all along, expected to end up governing together? And were the last five months of negotiations and break-downs all for show? That's a question that Daniela Lazarova put to analyst Petr Just.

Mirek Topolanek,  photo: CTK
"I think it was the strategy of both political parties to set such high demands to start off with so that later they would be able to say how many concessions they have made and how hard they were trying to reach agreement - I would definitely say that this is a strategy with respect to the public and voters."

Many Civic Democrats remain in favor of early elections. Will party leader Mirek Topolanek be able to defend this major concession?

"I think he will. The idea of holding early elections was seen as a way of breaking the deadlock. It was seen as a solution to the drawn-out political crisis when some politicians weren't even communicating, when there was a minority government and nobody expected this minority government to win a vote of confidence. So early elections were discussed in a wider context and now the context has changed so the idea of early elections is also changing."

Mr. Topolanek said that if he agreed to a government with a longer mandate it would necessarily have to be a pro-reform government because the country needs reforms. Are the parties who would be involved in this government able to form a pro-reform government and agree on reforms?

"I am quite pessimistic on this count. I know that Mr. Topolanek has promised voters a lot of reforms - financial reforms, social reforms, health care reforms - and the planned reforms were always in opposition to what the Social Democrats wanted to do or said they wanted. So on this count I am quite skeptical but I know that Mr. Topolanek needs to save face and at least promise that he will try to initiate these reforms. Actually initiating these reforms is the only step that this ideologically very broad and heterogeneous government could do. "

How long could such a government be expected to last?

"That would depend on the discipline of the parties involved but one should keep in mid that the government has not been formed yet so we should wait before jumping to conclusions because we have witnessed during the summer several moments when it seemed that an agreement was almost certain but in a few days' time there was suddenly no agreement and no government."