PM Gross resigns, but is the government crisis finally over?

After two months of turmoil, Prime Minister Stanislav Gross finally handed in his resignation on Monday morning. Mr Gross had come under extreme pressure, after allegations of irregularities in his personal finances. The three-party government resigned with him, but is due to re-form immediately under a new leader, Jiri Paroubek, up to now the local development minister. But is the crisis that has paralysed Czech politics recently over? And who exactly is Mr Gross's replacement? Pavla Horakova joins me.

President Vaclav Klaus and Stanislav Gross,  photo: CTK
"Well, the 52-year-old deputy chairman of the Social Democrats only became a minister in Stanislav Gross's government last summer. In previous years he was Prague's deputy mayor for economy and some of Mr Paroubek's colleagues from the City Hall describe him as a good manager and communicator, although some - including his former boss, one-time mayor Jan Kasl, have also accused him of arrogance. It is also quite interesting that in the 1970s and 80s Jiri Paroubek was a member of the Czechoslovak Socialist Party, one of only two legal political parties in Czechoslovakia besides the Communist Party."

Sometime during those years Jiri Paroubek was also approached by the political police...

"Indeed, the communist secret police, the StB, even listed him in its files but last week, Jiri Paroubek presented a copy of a security clearance issued in 1992, proving he did not collaborate with the StB. The document says he was only listed as a potential candidate for collaboration, which was a category used for people who failed to sign on. Despite that experience with the communist power, Mr Paroubek is known to be quite lenient as to potential cooperation with the largely unreformed Communist Party of today. During the weeks of the government crisis he even admitted a possible minority Social Democrat government supported by the Communists."

Jiri Paroubek
The incoming government, which some are calling 'Gross's government without Gross', has only a year till the next general election - has it set itself any special goals for the period?

"The absolute priority of the new cabinet will be the ratification of the European Constitution. And on the domestic front, it says it aims to reduce taxes for middle and lower incomes, start working on a pension system reform, put forward next year's state budget and also a number of other important bills. Those are listed in the pact signed on Monday morning by the three coalition parties, the Social Democrats, the Christian Democrats and the Freedom Union. The pact also explicitly says that the parties will vote together on crucial issues and won't seek support from the Communist Party."

Now, the government is to ask for confidence in the lower house within a month from now - is it expected to get it?

"Some say the vote of confidence will be the moment when we'll be able to say the government crisis is finally over. At the moment, some Social Democrat MPs, who are dissatisfied with the new coalition agreement, are hesitant to give their support to the government. At the same time the Communists have said that under certain terms they might raise their hands in the vote."