Talks on governing coalition crisis to continue

Havel, Spidla in front, Pilip and Svoboda at the back, Photo:CTK

The crisis within the governing coalition continues after Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla asked the junior coalition partner - the right-of-centre Freedom Union - to give up its three cabinet posts on Monday. On Monday evening, the heads of the coalition parties met President Vaclav Havel and tried to find a solution to the crisis. Pavla Horakova has more.

Havel,  Spidla in front,  Pilip and Svoboda at the back,  Photo:CTK
Although no clear solution was found during the talks, Mr Havel was reassured that talks would continue in his absence - after his departure for the United States on Tuesday.

"I've been reassured that I can leave. I invited the gentlemen to keep on negotiating in my absence within and between their parties. I shall keep in contact over the phone and if necessary I can return at any time."

The current crisis started on Friday, when MP Hana Marvanova of the junior coalition partner, the right-of-centre Freedom Union, voted against a government-proposed package of flood measures which included tax reforms, Ms Marvanova said went against her party's election promises. The ruling coalition has a fragile majority of just one seat in the Czech lower house and Friday's vote was its first major test.

Radio Prague's Jan Velinger spoke to the acting chairman of the Freedom Union, Ivan Pilip.

"Definitely, the situation within the coalition has been fragile since the very beginning, but on the other hand, we did know it. We did know that we had just 101 seats in the parliament with 200 seats and at least Mrs Marvanova sometimes behaves in a way that is not always predictable."

Ivan Pilip and Petr Mares from the Freedom Union,  Photo:CTK
Although Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla asked Freedom Union ministers to resign from the government on Monday morning, after the meeting with President Havel, Mr Spidla said there were other options too.

"I think the meeting showed that a number of different options exist. All options need to be discussed by all political parties and I believe that this will happen within the next few days."

All three Freedom Union ministers will remain in their posts at least until the end of this week, while negotiations between the coalition partners continue. The Freedom Union's Ivan Pilip again.

"Definitely we should use all the ways for discussion about how to solve the situation because the crisis was deep, the vote was serious, but we need to try to find solutions and not to give it up immediately."