Prague - The opposition Social Democrats (ČSSD) today came five votes short of toppling PM Mirek Topolánek's government in a vote of no confidence after only 96 of 200 MPs supported the motion.
Still, the unity of the governing coalition was shaken when five coalition MPs refused to back the government in the vote. Three MPs from Topolánek's Civic Democrats (ODS) abstained and two Green Party MPs left the chamber before the voting.
On the other hand, former Social Democrat Miloš Melčák (unaffiliated) and Petr Wolf (ČSSD) backed the government by voting against the motion.
"The governing coalition has the support of only 97 MPs. If it initiated a vote of confidence, it would not get its 101 votes," said ČSSD leader Jiří Paroubek. "It is not possible to go on towards the [EU] presidency with such a weak mandate."
Mr Topolánek rejected the claim that his government is too weak. "This government has weathered the fourth no-confidence vote and it will stay in place. I am glad that we are getting the time we need to work and finish the goals we outlined in our policy statement," he said.
Leaders see need for policy 'corrections'
At the same time the premier admitted that his cabinet might have to modify some of its policies in the light of last week's debacle in the regional elections.
He said the three coalition partners - ODS, Christian Democrats (KDU-ČSL) and Greens - will have to discuss "what we want to achieve in an immediate future, where we made mistakes and where our communication towards the public was inadequate". Topolánek added his cabinet would go on with those plans that will be "feasible and acceptable for the public" and that will have the support of at least 101 MPs.
A similar statement came from Martin Bursík, Green Party leader and environment minister: "We are halfway through our term. We ourselves will evaluate our governance and adopt corrections."