Topolanek outlines possible governments to push for early elections

Mirek Toplanek, photo: CTK

In a few days' time it will be three months since the Czech election ended in stalemate, dividing Parliament equally between the left and right. Having won, the right-of-centre Civic Democrats and leader Mirek Toplanek earned the right to lead negotiations on a new government but have so far not been successful. For Mr Topolanek last week, things got worse before getting better. On Friday, it appeared that he and his party would be fully left out in the cold, after his political rival, Social Democrat leader Jiri Paroubek, took the initiative to try and form his own government: a proposed minority cabinet supported by none other than the Communists.

Miroslav Kalousek, photo: CTK
Of all the post-election scenarios this had to be one of the most difficult to predict: a Social Democrat/Christian Democrat minority government propped up by the Communist Party. Who other than Christian Democrat leader Miroslav Kalousek, long considered one of the more skilled Czech politicians, had consistently worked towards the opposite: a centre-right platform and explicitly rejected any proposed government relying on Communist support? Last Thursday that changed. In an apparent move to keep his party "afloat" in government, he reneged on his promise. The next day, he paid the political price: displeasure among his own Christian Democrats forcing him to resign. Party deputy leader Jan Kasal, taking over in the interim, attempted to explain his predecessor's actions:

"Mr Kalousek tried to find the best possible conditions for [our] party and the best possible outcome to the political situation following the elections. After he exhausted all options and the Civic Democrats began working on what can only be called a 'tolerance' pact with the Social Democrats, there weren't many possibilities left open. Mr Kalousek opted to begin preliminary negotiations with the head of the Social Democrats Jiri Paroubek."

Mirek Toplanek, photo: CTK
The collapse of the short-lived proposal put together by Mr Kalousek and Social Democrat leader Jiri Paroubek, has allowed Mr Topolanek, the prime minister designate, to regain the initiative and his political footing after being by-passed and badly embarrassed. Last week, he reminded the public that the Civic Democrats had a mandate to lead negotiations - not Mr Paroubek. The question is what next?

Mr Topolanek, in a Sunday debate programme, said he will now push for three possible solutions: a political government with members from all the political parties except for the Communists; a minority government with Civic Democrats and unaffiliated members; or, a strictly caretaker government. Which - if any - prevails will depend on the outcome of negotiations this week. In Mr Topolanek's view, any new cabinet should have only a limited number of goals, chief among them leading the country to early elections in the spring of 2007. And, he would like to present the proposed cabinet to the president by the end of the week.

One last thing that is worth stressing: In Mr Topolanek's view certainly all options have been exhausted, and at least some others will agree with him. The Greens have been saying for quite some time now that early elections were the only 'honourable' solution. The Communists too could back them, MP Jiri Dolejs saying on Sunday "if" early elections, than next year rather than in 2008. But, the Social and Christian Democrats have so far come out against, which is perhaps not surprising following last week's developments. Right now, some polls have suggested that they'd have the most to lose.