President to decide next step if Civic Democrat government fails

Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, photo: CTK

On Tuesday all eyes will be on parliament as Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek's government begins procedures leading up to a crucial confidence vote. Even now few are giving his cabinet much chance. In a parliament divided evenly along the political left and right since June's election, it would take a major coup for the government to gain a majority, and most observers say that simply won't happen.

Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, photo: CTK
What next if the government falls? That will once again be up to the president, Vaclav Klaus, to decide on whom to name next. Another Civic Democrat? Or, Social Democrat Jiri Paroubek, whose party finished second in the elections?

Earlier I asked political analyst Petr Just to sum up some of the possibilities and he began by saying how this vote would be different.

"Definitely Tuesday's confidence vote will be different from others after 1989 and after 1993, when the Czech Republic was formed. It is the first time in the history of the Czech Republic that a government is going to ask for confidence without being sure it will get it in advance. There were no preliminary talks and there were no preliminary agreements to ensure it would get the majority needed."

As a result most aren't giving the Civic Democrat government much chance to pass in the vote: if it doesn't, what happens next? Is it likely that the president will again name Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek to lead negotiations on a second government, or do you think it will be more likely he will name someone else from the Civic Democrats?

"I doubt that Mr Topolanek would be appointed for a second time. However, it is possible that someone else from the Civic Democratic party will be named, someone more open to the idea of a grand coalition. We know that after the election Mr Topolanek was against the idea and strongly denied the possibility of a grand coalition. But, it is known that within the Civic Democratic party there are a group of people who are actually quite high up who favour this solution. If there is a motion within the party that Mr Topolanek should have formed a grand coalition, someone in favour could get the chance and could be appointed as the new prime minister to form a grand coalition."

Jiri Paroubek, photo: CTK
Of course the president could bypass the Civic Democrats entirely in the second round and could directly appoint Mr Paroubek, the leader of the Social Democrats, to try and form a government. Do you think that could happen?

"It's unpredictable. By the constitution the president is not directed whom he should appoint, not how long it should take. You can say it will be just his decision, his private decision. It could be Mr Paroubek. But, I think it could be very hard for Mr Paroubek to break the deadlock if he is appointed the prime minister. As he was very negative towards Mr Topolanek's attempt, he can expect a similar reaction from Mr Topolanek towards any Paroubek attempt. It's really a deadlock and anyone forming the next government will be in a very difficult position.

"However, as I said, it's really up to the president, he is quite an autonomous player at this moment, and he can really appoint anybody. Already there are also some rumours that he might name a non-partisan prime minister who would lead a cabinet of experts, an acting government that would lead the country to early elections."