MP's defection could shift balance of power in the lower house
Just days after taking a beating in the Senate and local elections, the Social Democratic Party has sustained another bad blow. Deputy Michal Pohanka on Wednesday unexpectedly announced his decision to leave party ranks and to withdraw from the Social Democrat deputies' group in the lower house. His defection could mark a shift in the balance of power in the lower chamber which has been deadlocked since June's inconclusive general elections.
"I most certainly did not pressure my colleague Pohanka into resigning. As for the idea that I act like a communist hardliner from the 50s -well, the very idea makes my party colleagues smile."
Pohanka remains in hiding and the Social Democrats are hectically trying to locate him - in order to have a proper talk with him "face to face".
Meanwhile, the centre-right Civic Democrats are clearly pleased with this latest development. It has weakened the position of their rival and brought early elections a big step closer. Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek made no secret of the fact that Michal Pohanka's decision had made the way to early elections easier.
"We will certainly do our best to pave the way to early elections without any major shake-ups for the country. Basically our position has not changed. We are still pressing for early elections in 2007. What has changed is that the Social Democrats no longer have 100 votes to lean on."
For the present time Michal Pohanka is keeping his own council as regards how he will use his crucial vote. But the fact that he is no longer a member of the Social Democratic Party means that the left faction in Parliament is now weaker than the right and that is a signal which President Klaus is not likely to miss when choosing the next prime minister designate.