Government wins confidence vote, ending political crisis

La Chambre des députés, photo: CTK

The coalition government of Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek won a confidence vote in the lower house of parliament on Friday, a move set to end once and for all months of political crisis in the Czech Republic. Mr Paroubek replaced Stanislav Gross, who had been forced to step down amid a row over his personal finances. All 101 MPs in the ruling coalition voted for Mr Paroubek's government, while the remaining 99 opposition deputies all voted against.

Lower house of parliament, photo: CTK
Pavla Horakova followed the vote in parliament.

It was widely expected and predicted that Prime Minister Paroubek's new government would get the vote on Friday and the Prime Minister himself did not conceal his confidence ahead of the vote.

"I am confident, I am sure, practically, and I hope the support will be higher than 101 votes."

Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek, photo: CTK
Prime Minister Paroubek was a little too optimistic because the government finally received just those 101 votes it needed to pass the vote. Until recently, not even all the votes of his own party members were certain because a number of Social Democrat MPs threatened to bring down the government unless their terms were met. Social Democrat Jan Kavan was one of those MPs whose vote could have tipped the scales.

"I already a week ago said that I will support the government today as a result of an agreement reached between the prime minister and the foreign minister concerning the possibility of the Czech Social Democratic Party to have far greater influence on the formulation and implementation of the foreign policy. And now we are assured by the new prime minister, and I have it in writing, that it will be implemented and therefore the main obstacle in our minds was removed and we will support the government."

Martin Jahn, photo: CTK
The new cabinet will serve for only about a year as the next general elections are scheduled for mid-next year. But it has set itself a number of tasks. What are they?

As most of the government's priorities are of economic nature, I put that question to the deputy Prime Minister for Economy Martin Jahn.

"The first priority is to approve the Treaty on the European Constitution and I think it is also an economic priority. In terms of the economic policy, we would like to approve the new bankruptcy law, which is very important, we would like to focus on decreasing the bureaucratic burden on entrepreneurs, the government also wants to set up programmes for structural funds from the European Union for the period from 2007-2013, also we are increasing funds for research and development spending, we will be focusing on the development of transportation infrastructure and many other issues."

A two-hour debate preceded the vote on Friday morning. The leader of the opposition Communist Party, Miroslav Grebenicek, was very critical in his speech of the work of Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda and Justice Minister Pavel Nemec and although his party took time out in the morning for consultation, they finally voted unanimously against the government. So did the right-of-centre Civic Democrats, whose main objections to the government's policy concern economic reforms.

Civic Democrat Deputy Petr Necas.

"This government wasn't, isn't and will not be ready to go through real deep economic reforms and we are absolutely sure that this country will need real deep economic reforms."

He repeated that according to the Civic Democrats the best solution for this country would be early elections but now that the government has survived the vote, it looks as though they will have to wait for another year.