Opinion divided in parliament over Bush victory

George Bush, photo: CTK

While some European leaders may be feeling trepidation at the election of George Bush to a second term as US President, the Czech President Vaclav Klaus - himself a strong advocate of the political right - responded with unconcealed delight, describing Mr Bush as a "true leader of his nation at a difficult time". And that is despite Mr Klaus's reservations about the Iraq war. But Czech political opinion is divided, as we found out when we spoke to deputies in the Czech parliament on Thursday.

George Bush,  photo: CTK
President Klaus' enthusiasm is shared by his predecessor, Vaclav Havel, the Czech Foreign Minister, Cyril Svoboda, who said the Czech Republic shared Mr Bush's views on Iraq and the war against terrorism, and Czech Defence Minister Karel Kuhnl from the Freedom Union - the smallest party in the ruling coalition - who had this to say:

"For the Czech Republic, the most important thing is to maintain good relations with the United States. That would have been achieved by President Bush as well as prospective president Kerry because this is simply our task. In this specific case, it is an advantage for the Czech Republic that the administration of President Bush will have another term because we know them. Another positive sign is that in his second term, President Bush will probably be a little bit more relaxed towards Europe because he will be free of the necessity of the stress to be re-elected."

Vladimir Lastuvka
The left-wing of the largest party in the current government, the Social Democrats, has not concealed its opposition to the war in Iraq and Mr Bush's neo-conservative social policies. Vladimir Lastuvka is chairman of the parliament's foreign affairs committee.

"The result of the election is bad news for the world, the United States and for me. Just like most of the rest of the world I hoped that John Kerry would win. He was hope that the US will find a way to improve relations with Europe and the rest of the world. We do not want a dominant USA but a cooperating USA. The world without the States is not safe, I know, but we do not want one sheriff for the whole planet."

Mr Lastuvka's view could hardly be further removed from that of many deputies from the second largest party in the ruling coalition, the Christian Democrats, of which Foreign Minister Svoboda is a member. Unlike the Social Democrats, they are encouraged by Mr Bush's conservative social policy. Jiri Karas:

Jiri Karas
"I am a Christian and I think that Mr Bush is a Christian too as he is a symbol against abortion and against the registration of same-sex partnerships. It's a very bad message for liberals but for us, the message [election result] is very good."

As far as the opposition is concerned, the far left Communists are - not surprisingly - disappointed by the result. But the right-wing opposition Civic Democrats, currently the strongest party in opinion polls, are firmly behind Mr Bush. Here's the shadow Interior Minister Ivan Langer.

"I think that the results could strengthen the Euro-Atlantic cooperation and I'm very glad that Mr Bush succeeded."