Talks on forming a new government continue

Vladimir Spidla and Vaclav Klaus, photo: CTK

It was a busy day at Prague Castle on Thursday where President Klaus received the outgoing Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla and held a series of one-on-one talks with the heads of three political parties on the formation of the next Czech government. The question who will be given the task of trying to set it up remains unanswered. President Klaus has asked for more time, telling newsmen that he would make up his mind within a matter of days. Nevertheless, some information on how the talks went did filter through to the press. Daniela Lazarova has been following the story and joins me now in the studio. So Daniela, how are things looking at the present time?

Vladimir Spidla and Vaclav Klaus,  photo: CTK
"Well Dita, I think that it was a demanding day for all three party leaders - and indeed the only one who emerged from the talks smiling was the outgoing PM Mr. Spidla who said the meeting with President Klaus was the nicest he'd ever had. As for the others I think it would give you a good idea to just quote a rather revealing remark made by the President himself who couldn't resist telling newsmen that he's let these politicians "stew in their own juice for a while". This was in reference to the fact that Mr. Klaus was in a very similar situation back in 1997 when he himself was forced to resign as Prime Minister, following a rebellion within his own party. But, to get back to the present situation - President Klaus basically said that none of the three party leaders - that is Stanislav Gross of the Social Democrats, Mirsolav Kalousek of the Christian Democrats and Mirek Topolanek of the opposition right wing Civic Democrats -had convinced him that they were in a position to set up a viable government. And Mr. Klaus has made it very clear that he would only support a stable government."

Stanislav Gross and Vaclav Klaus,  photo: CTK
But Stanislav Gross who now heads the Social Democrats - the strongest party in Parliament - has repeatedly told the press that he IS up to the task.

"Yes, he has, but whatever his plan is - it has clearly not convinced the President and the fact is that Mr. Gross has little option but to project a confidence he probably doesn't feel if he wants to keep his party in office. From what insider sources have leaked to the press Mr. Gross is engaging in some desperate behind the scenes bartering right now. He is still one vote short of a majority in parliament and he has to convince one deputy - either one of the two rebels from the outgoing coalition government or an opposition MP - to switch allegiances, so to speak. Clearly that person -were they from the opposition- would become an immediate outcast so the pay-off must be extremely lucrative -and there is a lot of speculation in the press as to what post might be involved. The thing is, though, that even if Mr. Gross were to succeed, he would have a very fragile government indeed - which could break down at any moment - and I think that this is what the President objects to most. Another disturbing aspect is that Czech politics seems to have boiled down to mathematics - politicians are playing with numbers and making deals among themselves to achieve their goals - which is not going down at all well with the public - because the idea of politics as a public service seems to have disappeared entirely."