Opposition launches new attempt to topple the government

Mirek Topolánek, photo: CTK

The coalition government of Mirek Topolánek is losing ground in the Chamber of Deputies. A day after a media scandal involving the prime minister’s advisor, the opposition went on the offensive on Tuesday, saying they want to remove the government in a vote of no-confidence. The coalition had to admit its weak position, and withdrew votes on allowing a US radar base from the agenda in the lower house, fearing they would not muster the necessary votes.

Jiří Paroubek
Nearly half way through the Czech presidency of the European Union, the country’s government is on the ropes. On Monday, Czech TV broadcast a recording of Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek’s right-hand man trying to convince a reporter to drop a story which could be damaging to a former opposition MP who now supports the coalition. Now the opposition has struck back, saying they would try and topple the government in a vote of no-confidence next week. The Social Democrat leader Jiří Paroubek accused the government of resorting to mafia practices.

Mirek Topolánek,  photo: CTK
“The methods of Prime Minister Topolánek and his associate Mr Dalík have exceeded all tolerable limits of democratic society. We have witnessed further mafia practices of Mr Topolánek’s government and his collaborators. These have been an unacceptable intervention into the independence of the media and the independence of police investigation.”

The coalition came under pressure in Parliament on Tuesday, with two of their MPs sick and two ministers away. The opposition took advantage of the situation and managed to attach the radar treaties with the US to the agenda – with good prospects of voting them down. The cabinet, with their backs to the wall, were forced to pull the votes. But Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek told reporters this was not the end of the matter.

“This does not mean we would end the ratification process, as we can return the material at any time. It means the approval of the treaties by the Senate is valid, and we will come back to this after negotiations with the US administration and after the NATO summit in Strasbourg and Kehl.”

The vote of no-confidence in the government is expected to take place on Tuesday. The opposition have failed to bring down the cabinet on four previous occasions, but if they succeed this time, the country will be left without a government in the middle of the six-month EU presidency, and some two weeks before an EU-US summit in Prague.