Social Democrat-led cabinet to make way for new administration

Jiri Paroubek, photo: CTK

The Social Democrat Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek has announced that he will resign at the start of next week, triggering the fall of his government and opening the way for a new administration. Although the way is now clear for President Klaus to appoint the country's next prime minister - the political stalemate following June's inconclusive general elections may present serious problems.

Jiri Paroubek, photo: CTK
Less than 24 hours after three centre right parties signed a coalition agreement on a new government the outgoing prime minister announced the day of his resignation:

"The Social Democrats want to make it perfectly clear that our priority is to defend our policy programme and not betray the trust of our voters. We are not seeking power and posts. I have decided that, regardless of how the election of a new lower house leadership goes, I will resign as Prime Minister after Monday's extraordinary government session."

The winner of the elections, Civic Democratic Party leader Mirek Topolanek was not impressed :

Mirek Topolanek, photo: CTK
"Mr. Paroubek's move is as predictable as spring following winter. The prime minister is only doing what the Constitution says he must do."

Although the PM presented his resignation as a goodwill gesture to the newly-formed centre right coalition of Civic Democrats, Christian Democrats and Greens he knows all too well that he is still in a position to drive a hard bargain. Without support from his party the centre-right coalition cannot hope to win approval in parliament or govern the country. And Mr. Paroubek has made it clear that his party's support would not come cheap.

"The way out of this stalemate would require an exceptionally responsible and realistic approach" he told journalists. "It would require generosity and a will to compromise as opposed to power games. I fear that the Civic Democrats will not rise above their power games" he added. It was a clear indication that the Social Democrat leader is determined to thrash as much political capital as he can from the stalemate which has soured the election victory for the Civic Democrats. And that he has still not given up hope that he himself might get a chance to form the next government -should his rival fail.

President Klaus is now free to appoint Civic Democratic party leader Mirek Topolanek the country's next prime minister. He has shown the newly formed centre right coalition unprecedented goodwill in not demanding assurances of majority support in the lower house. However, this alone is not enough. The next government needs extra support from the ranks of the opposition if it is to have any real future, and the next few weeks are likely to be a major test of integrity for both the centre right and centre left.