Party's over for 4K
When four right-of-centre opposition parties joined forces in September 1998, it was with high hopes and a common goal - to break the stranglehold on power enjoyed by the ruling Social Democrats and the opposition Civic Democrats, and offer disillusioned Czech voters a clear alternative. On Thursday, just one day after the president announced the date of the next parliamentary elections, it disintegrated - in spectacular fashion - with its leaders openly accusing each other of betrayal. Rob Cameron mourns the passing of the Four-Party Coalition.
On Thursday, the Christian Democrats - which had threatened to expel the ODA unless it cleaned up its act - finally lost its patience, announcing that it would contest this year's elections with the Freedom Union-DEU alone. The ODA leader, Michael Zantovsky, was furious. On Friday he announced that the Four-Party Coalition was effectively dead:
"The Four-Party Coalition is history. I repeat - the Four-Party Coalition was founded on agreements signed between the four parties, and those agreements have been violated by the Christian Democrat resolution. Because those agreements were violated, the Four-Party Coalition no longer exists."
But it did it really have to end this way? Was the Four-Party Coalition - a mixed bag of parties with different ideologies and strong personalities - doomed to failure from the start? Vaclav Zak is the editor-in-chief of the political bi-monthly, Listy.
"I don't think so. I think there was a political reason why the Four-Party Coalition was put together, and it was the so-called Opposition Agreement [between the Social Democrats and the Civic Democrats]. Now the Opposition Agreement is coming to an end, now we are approaching the election, and the original reason why the Four-Party Coalition was bound together is slowly disappearing. They had a common enemy, and of course they would also have problems with a common programme. But this particular case [the ODA dispute] was caused by the past: you can't play the "the rule of law" card and the "decent entrepreneurship" card, when you have such a party as your partner."
"Well, if the public will understand their dealing with the ODA as an attempt to be consistent, when they say they want to make honest politics so they had to solve the problems of the ODA, that could in fact convince people that they are taking their promises in earnest. And that they are the only party in this country which is really doing so."
Commentator Vaclav Zak, ending that report on the end of the line for the opposition Four-Party Coalition.