So what's with the government?

Marie Kraslova

So, another year has gone by - and although Santa was generous to us Czechs as usual - one thing he forgot to bring is a stable government. Still, over the extended holidays nobody seemed to miss it. As usual Czechs wallowed in a series of fairy tales where good triumphs over evil and where it all ends with a big wedding and a young, wise and capable king on the throne. However, when the nation shook off its collective hang-over at the start of this week it was clear that one thing had not changed - the Czech Republic was still the biggest non-governmental organization in Europe.

Even President Klaus grumbled a little after his traditional luncheon with the prime minister at Lany Chateau. "It would be nice if I could meet here with the same person twice" he joked in reference to the constant change of prime ministers. During his term in office so far Mr. Klaus has roasted venison for prime ministers Topolanek, Paroubek, Gross and Spidla. Prime Minister Topolanek would doubtless be only too happy to oblige and turn up again next year - but at this point the chances of that happening are slim. In the first three or four months of the fruitless seven-month-long search

for a new leadership Czechs retained their good humor, cracking jokes about Czech politicians and putting up illicit billboards. Now even the biggest optimists are running out of steam and people are wondering how long politicians can go on playing this game. Luckily, for the time being, the country seems to be running just fine without it. The economy is booming and the crown is stable. "A government? I'm no longer used to the idea of having a government" a Czech comedian quipped recently. However at the back of our minds there is an uncomfortable feeling that at some not too distant date we may all pay a high price for this drawn-out political crisis. Even the country's oldest inhabitant - 108-year old Marie Kraslova now rails at the political instability. Mrs. Kraslova was born in the Austro-Hungarian Empire and often recalls the day when Emperor Franz Josef rode into their village and she saw him close up as a child. Her life spanned the birth of Czechoslovakia, the years of the first republic, the Nazi occupation, the communist years and the fall of the Iron Curtain. Today at 108 she fears she may not live long enough to see another stable government. "I can't understand what is taking them so long" Mrs. Kraslova said when she was interviewed by reporters. Join the club Marie, nor can another ten million Czechs. Maybe one day we'll figure it out.