Roadblocks to watch in Czech government talks

4. 6. 2010 14:38
ODS to lead govt talks. Parties agree on general orientation, not on some particular topics
Will they reach an agreement? Radek John (Public Affairs), Karel Schwarzenberg (TOP 09), Petr Nečas (ODS) (from left to right)
Will they reach an agreement? Radek John (Public Affairs), Karel Schwarzenberg (TOP 09), Petr Nečas (ODS) (from left to right) | Foto: Ludvík Hradilek

Prague - Czech President Václav Klaus said he authorized Petr Nečas, the leader of the right-wing Civic Democratic Party (ODS), to start talks on forming a governing coalition.

„I have decided to ask you to lead political talks with the goal of forming a government with majority support of the Chamber of Deputies of the Parliament of the Czech Republic," Klaus said to Nečas.

„I expect you to inform me in two weeks about the course and results of your negotiations, so I can decide on further constitutional moves," Klaus added.

By his today's decision, Klaus broke a tradition that the election's winner is always the first to be given a chance to form a government. Although the late-May election was won by the Czech Social Democracy (ČSSD), the party has very little real chance to gain support of a majority of the 200-seat Lower Chamber.

Read more: Czech Socialist leader resigns after winning election

Klaus said he decided to entrust Nečas with starting government talks after three center-right parties - ODS, TOP 09 and Public Affairs, together controlling 118 out of 200 seats - signed a joint declaration yesterday in which they stated their will to form a government of „fiscal responsibility, rule of law and fight against corruption".

Read more: Czech right-wing parties to form coalition government

However, as the leaders of the parties themselves pointed out, the declaration is only the first step towards forming a stable government. Although the parties' programs agree on general „fiscal austerity" orientation, they differ on some particular topics. The key rupture is between the right-wing ODS and conservative TOP 09 on one side and the somehow populist-leaning Public Affairs on the other.

Defense cuts and medical fees

One of the potentially controversial issues are the medical fees, a hotly-debated topic since their introduction a few years ago. While the ODS and TOP 09 would like to preserve them as they are, the Public Affairs want to abolish them. Also, the Public Affairs are much more radical in their anti-corruption proposals. For example, the party wants to introduce agents provocateurs to fight corruption, a measure the two other parties would prefer to avoid.

The issue of defense is probably even more likely to create a significant disagreement. The Public Affairs declare they would like the Czech army to be incorporated under the Interior Ministry, a highly unorthodox proposal even in the global context. The ODS and TOP 09 plan to modernize the army, while the Public Affairs on the contrary want cuts in defense spending. The party for example says that there is no need for the Czech Republic to have tank or artillery units.  

When discussing the Public Affair's stances on national security issues, it is worth noting that the party faces serious criticism for its personal links to ABL, the biggest Czech security agency. Vít Bárta, one of the most important men in the party, is the founder of the company. 

The parties will establish seven working groups that will discuss particular issues, such as public spending, education, environment, etc. If some of the groups do not come to an agreement, their issue will be discussed and decided upon by chief negotiators of all three parties.


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