Social Democrats to finalize proposal for coalition agreement

Social Democrats leader Vladimir Spidla, photo: CTK

Less than a week after the country's general elections, talks on forming a governing coalition between the Social Democrats and the centre right grouping made up of the centrist Christian Democrats and the Liberal Freedom Union have moved into a higher gear. Daniela Lazarova has the story.

Social Democrats leader Vladimir Spidla,  photo: CTK
After an initial meeting at which the leaders of the three parties told the press that they were "ready and willing" to form a governing coalition, talks on some of the hurdles which could face this slim one vote majority government are said to have continued in secret. Freedom Union leader Hana Marvanova on Thursday admitted that there had been contacts by phone and in person over the past two days as the two sides sounded each other out on various important issues, such as taxes, the planned reform of the pension system and next year's state budget deficit. Although the official line is that both sides want to get as many potential hurdles out of the way as possible before sitting down at the table again for further negotiations, a source close to the Coalition admitted that they were ascertaining the strength of their bargaining chips. For instance, although the centre-right grouping is said to have resigned itself to the fact that the communists, who did unexpectedly well in the elections, will have important posts in Parliament, it still wants a promise from the Social Democrats that they will not vote in favour of a Communist proposal to abolish the screening law, under which former communist officials are banned from high posts in civil service.

For their part, the Social Democrats would like a written promise from their potential allies confirming that the two parties will not endanger the coalition through further infighting. The preliminary consultations are now over - and the Social Democrats have announced that over the weekend they will finalize their proposal for a coalition agreement and officially table it on Monday. The Social Democrats, who are negotiating from a position of strength, have allegedly outlined a division of posts in Cabinet and enumerated a number of key issues on which they would like to receive guarantees of support. They allegedly include reforms crucial to EU membership, Constitutional amendments and the party's social policy priorities, regarding unemployment and welfare benefits. Although the latter points in particular are expected to produce discord, a high placed member of the Social Democrat leadership said the proposal had been drafter in such a way as to allow room for compromise. Clearly, at this point in the talks neither side wants to rock the boat - and the parties of the centrist grouping which are in a weaker position - stand to loose more than the Social Democrats if they walk away from the negotiating table.