President Klaus slams governing coalition in Parliament speech

Vaclav Klaus, Photo: CTK

After seven months in office, President Vaclav Klaus walked into Parliament and did what he was always so good at: he slammed the governing coalition, criticized the state budget and warned against the pitfalls of the European Constitution. It was a passionate address worthy of an opposition leader, angering some who say the president is meant to be impartial.

Vaclav Klaus, Photo: CTK
It was a familiar scene as Vaclav Klaus once again commanded the attention of the Lower House. He deplored the growing deficit in public finances, slammed the governing coalition for making promises it could not keep, expressed the fear of too much power in the hands of the state at the cost of civic rights and warned against the pitfalls of the European Constitution. It was a rousing speech that delighted the opposition Civic Democrats and angered the governing coalition. On a working visit to Brussels, Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla did not let the criticism go unchallenged. He said that on many counts the President's criticism was unjustified and even demagogical. He admitted though that the government planned reforms would need to go much farther. Responding to the President's claim that what the government had presented to Parliament was not reform but a package of austerity measures, Mr. Spidla said that it was only the first stage of reform, to be followed by the all-important reform of the pension system, further tax amendments and measures aimed at reducing unemployment. The Prime Minister said he could not agree with the President

that the state was depriving people of civic freedoms because - as he said - to avoid paying taxes was most definitely not a civil right. He was also happy to cross swords with Mr. Klaus over the European Constitution.

In many ways the exchange was a skilful exercise in rhetoric such as Parliament had not seen in a while. It was the kind of speech from Vaclav Klaus that one might have expected although there were many to remind him that a non-partisan stand would have been more appropriate from the head of state. Possibly one of the most astute remarks came from the Speaker of the Lower House Lubomir Zaoralek who said "Vaclav Klaus's speech in Parliament clearly revealed the opposition Civic Democrats are still searching for a leader with spirit. Mr. Klaus was simply filling a gap".