News of Radio Prague

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Havel meets political leaders

In the wake of the country's two day parliamentary elections President Havel has been meeting with political leaders to discuss the formation of a new government. In the course of Sunday the President met with the leader of the Social Democrats, Vladimir Spidla, whose party won over 30% of the vote, the head of the Civic Democrats Vaclav Klaus who suffered a stinging defeat at the hands of the Social Democrats getting only 23% , and the leaders of the Coalition grouping, made up of the centrist Christian Democrats and the liberal Freedom Union, which did worse than expected with just over 14% of the vote. Although the Communist Party did unexpectedly well in the elections placing third with over 18 % of the vote the President has refused to meet with them on the grounds that they do not belong among the democratic forces in Parliament.

The President said he would officially ask one of the party leaders to begin talks on putting together the country's next Cabinet on Monday. Mr. Havel admitted that, under the circumstances, he personally favored a coalition between the Social Democrats and the two centre-right Coalition parties.

Social Democrats prepare to negotiate

Meanwhile, the Social Democrat leader Vladimir Spidla, who is positioned to become the country's next prime minister, is preparing for talks with potential coalition partners. Mr. Spidla has ruled out a coalition with both the Civic Democrats and the Communists, saying that he would first talk to the leaders of the centre-right Coalition. A governing coalition between the Social Democrats, the Christian Democrats and the Freedom Union is seen as the most likely set-up although it would command only a slim one-vote majority in Parliament. If these talks fail, the Social Democrat leader has said he is not ruling out a minority government with the support of one or more parliamentary parties.

Communists want a part of the action

The Communist party has protested against efforts to marginalize its influence on Czech politics, despite its relatively high rate of support. Communist Party leader Miroslav Grebenicek told journalists that the party had prepared a three member negotiating team and was ready to join the talks. We find it hard to believe that the Social Democrats would want to uphold a long outdated party resolution about not cooperating with the Communists, Mr. Grebenicek said, referring to a pledge that the Social Democrats made after the fall of communism in an effort to distance themselves from the Communists and build a credible party in their own right. The Communists claim that the Social Democrats should reconsider this pledge because it is allegedly against the wishes of 18% of the electorate. The Social Democrats show no intention of doing so.

Civic Democrats ready to go into opposition, Klaus faces uncertain future

Vaclav Klaus, the head of the centre right Civic Democratic Party has openly admitted defeat, saying, shortly after his meeting with President Havel, that his party had little choice but to go into opposition . Mr. Klaus refrained from commenting on his own uncertain future, refusing to say whether he would accept full responsibility for the party's show down and resign from his post. He told journalists that he must first consult the matter with the party leadership . The election results appear to rule out any ambitions of a return to power for the 60 year old former economics professor and his chances of becoming the next Czech president are slim.

Reactions from abroad

Reactions from abroad to the outcome of the parliamentary elections in the Czech Republic has been generally positive. The EU commissioner for enlargement Gunter Verheugen said the election results confirmed the Czech Republic's pro- EU orientation and presented the country as a stable democracy. A positive assessment has likewise come from deputies of the European Parliament. German officials have likewise welcomed the idea of a government with a strong pro-EU orientation and the Slovak Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda has described the election results as "encouraging for future cooperation". Observers from the OSCE / Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe/ said the elections had been free and fair.

Weather forecast

Monday is expected to be another very warm day with partly cloudy skies and scattered showers. Afternoon highs are expected to reach 29 degs C.