New cabinet will face immediate difficulties ahead

Mirek Topolanek, photo: CTK

Prime Minister designate Mirek Topolanek has now met with President Klaus and handed him a list of ministers for his minority cabinet. The new government, according to reports, will be named on Monday. That means, under the constitution, that the new prime minister and his government will have thirty days to ask parliament for a vote of confidence. But, what are the chances it will actually pass? Negotiations between Jiri Paroubek's Social Democrats, who came in second in the election, and Mirek Topolanek's right-of-centre Civic Democrats, who came first, are now at a "zero point", and many analysts are suggesting that the rule of Mr Topolanek's new government - without majority support - will be short.

The new government,  photo: CTK
Earlier Jan Velinger spoke to political analyst Vladimira Dvorakova, asking her how she saw the new prime minister's options:

"He has thirty days to negotiate, to bargain, to discuss with potential partners. But, because of the lack of support at this moment I don't believe he will be able to do that. One of the reasons is that we are just ahead of Senate and municipal elections, so at this moment no one really wants to accept any compromises. It isn't a good time for negations. Also, I think that personal attitudes and a general polarisation of the situation worsens the situation for this cabinet."

I understand that there is a loophole whereby Mr Topolanek could "improve" the government's chances, by attaching the confidence vote, for example, to crucial legislation.

"In fact, I think that this is not a possibility and I think that Mr Topolanek is misinterpreting the constitution. The situation described [attaching the vote to legislation] is for a cabinet that already previously passed in a vote of confidence, not one that has yet to do so. This is a mistake."

Mirek Topolanek,  photo: CTK
If the government indeed fails to pass, what will follow?

"They will have to resign but they will be immediately be asked by the president to carry on in their work until a 'new' cabinet can be formed. Then, there is some time for the president to name the second person who would be entrusted with trying to form the next government. This is where Mr Paroubek [sees his chance], the question is whether he will be asked. But, this is not an obligation of the president's under the constitution: it's possible he may ask someone else from the Civic Democrats, the party that won the election.

Is there a chance that we could see the country face early elections?

"It is difficult to say. I think that everybody is waiting for the results of the Senate and the local elections, which will show what the prospects are for particular parties. If the Social Democrats strengthen their position that could have an impact, likewise for the Civic Democrats, on who is for and against. There is also the question of the president, Vaclav Klaus. At the moment - with the composition of the Senate and the lower house - I think he has enough votes to be re-elected in 2008. But, if the situation in the Senate changes we could see a shift from the president to support pre-term elections, he's also one of the actors involved."