Nečas tasked with forming new government, given two weeks to make progress

Petr Nečas, Václav Klaus (right), photo: CTK

President Václav Klaus has tasked the leader of the Civic Democratic Party, Petr Nečas, to try and form the country’s next government, roughly a week after the general election. Despite finishing second, the Civic Democrats – together with newcomers TOP 09 and Public Affairs – have the most realistic chance of forming a majority government. But they will have to make progress quickly: as the president made clear on Friday he expects Mr Nečas to report back to him in two weeks.

Petr Nečas,  photo: CTK
If Petr Nečas, the head of the Civic Democratic Party, expected the president to name him prime minister designate on Friday – their second meeting in two days – he must have come away disappointed. As it stands, he has been given at least the formal nod to continue negotiations already underway on forming the next government and then report back to the president in two weeks. On Friday, the most likely choice for the country’s next prime minister had this to say:

“We are going to work very hard to bring the Czech Republic a viable government that will focus on key problems such as stopping further debt, fighting corruption, supporting the economy, and reinforcing the justice system. I am convinced that Czech citizens expect no less and expect meaningful if intense negotiation on the issues – not horse trading.”

Petr Nečas,  Václav Klaus  (right),  photo: CTK
Two weeks, some observers point out, is not a great deal of time given that the talks are expected to be far from easy. Many, for example, noted the first cracks in negotiations earlier this week when the inexperienced Public Affairs appeared to go on the defensive – its members warning the party might not enter any coalition at all if its priorities were not taken seriously. Within a day their differences were publically smoothed over, and all three parties signed a declaration they would try and form the next government. But as Public Affair’s Vít Bárta pointed out, it was only a declaration of intent – not a guarantee of a successful final result. The question now is whether the two weeks granted by the president to Mr Nečas will be enough. Even if they aren’t, says political analyst Jan Urban, the president will have little choice but to accept whatever Mr Nečas brings him:

“The reality has nothing to do with the ‘game’: the president would have to be satisfied with much less. In the last elections in 2006, he worked even with a majority of just 101 votes in the lower house, now he has been shown the chance of 118. Funnily enough, there is no other option.”

Normally, as the winners of the election, the Social Democrats would have been the ones given first shot at forming the next government, but theirs was a Pyrrhic victory and they remain on the outside, a political wallflower none of the three centrist or centre-right parties have asked to the dance, not surprising considering that if they can reach a deal they will have 118 mandates out of a possible 200 in the lower house.

Václav Klaus,  Bohuslav Sobotka  (right),  photo: CTK
As it stands, most Social Democrats now appear to have largely accepted the political reality and that they will go into the opposition. On Thursday, acting party leader Bohuslav Sobotka, who took over after former leader Jiří Paroubek resigned last week, said the party was putting on hold its own aim to form a new government; at the same time that did not stop him from expressing disappointment in the president on Friday, for not following normal procedure and not tasking him first to try and form a government – no matter how unrealistic the possibility.