A slim majority of delegates at the Social Democratic Party's congress in Brno, has re-elected Prime Minister Stanislav Gross as head of the Social Democrats. On Saturday Mr Gross defeated lone rival Zdenek Skromach by just less than 53 percent of the vote - a number of delegates abstained. Following his victory Mr Gross said he accepted responsibility for his party in the next national elections, in 15 months' time.
On Saturday the Social Democrats also elected a new inner party leadership: among those elected to deputy chairman posts were strong Gross supporters, the Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka and the Minister for Regional Development Jiri Pardoubek. Mr Gross' rival for the party leadership, Zdenek Skromach, also contended for a post but came up dry, and is said to now be considering leaving the government altogether. Mr Skromach is the Minister for Labour and Social Affairs. Other changes in ministerial posts may also be ahead: there are indications that if Mr Skromach leaves, Agriculture Minister Jaroslav Palas will also give up his post.
But, Mr Gross' re-election as chairman of the Social Democratic Party
has left the future of the governing coalition in doubt: coalition
partners, the Christian Democrats, had called for the prime minister's
resignation over the last month, saying they would pull out of the
government unless the prime minister accepted responsibility for a
recent property scandal.
There has been no final decision by the Christian Democrats yet, however they have made it clear when talks between the two political parties reconvene they will push for either Mr Gross to step down, or for early elections, as a condition for holding the coalition together. Christian Democrat leader Miroslav Kalousek has said the two sides should meet within a matter of days. The prime minister, meanwhile, indicated the ball is now very much in the Christian Democrats' court; he would prefer the government to continue in its present form until national elections in 2006.
A slim majority of delegates at the Social Democratic Party's congress in Brno, has re-elected Prime Minister Stanislav Gross as head of the Social Democrats. On Saturday Mr Gross defeated lone rival Zdenek Skromach by a total of 53 percent of the vote - a number of delegates abstained. Following his victory Mr Gross said he accepted responsibility for his party in the next national elections, in 15 months' time.
The popularity of the current party chairman, Prime Minister Stanislav Gross, is at an all-time low of 19 percent, following weeks of strong criticism over alleged irregularities in his family's personal finances, including how he bought a luxury Prague apartment several years ago, as his official salary was insufficient to have funded the purchase. If Stanislav Gross is not confirmed as party chairman, it could mean the eventual collapse of his Social Democrat-led coalition government. His main rival for the chairmanship is the current Labour Minister, Zdenek Skromach.
The Czech football team could be without its prolific striker Jan Koller on Saturday for its World Cup qualifier against Finland. Koller, who has scored a Czech record 34 goals in 61 appearances, and made four of the Czechs' six goals in World Cup qualifiers thus far, was injured during a match with his regular season club in Germany last weekend. The Czech Republic is now tied with Finland for third place in Group One, with nine points each. Striker Vratislav Lokvenc is Koller's likely replacement.
Former Prime Minister Milos Zeman, the long-serving chairman of the Social Democrats, has told the party's national conference meeting in Brno that he will not seek a return as party leader. Zeman retired from politics several years ago, but has remained a vocal critic of the current leadership. There had been speculation that he would announce his return to politics at the Social Democrat party congress, which continues until Sunday, and at which some 600 delegates are meeting to elect new leadership.
A bumper harvest across Central Europe has forced the European Commission to intervene, buying up and moving large amounts of surplus stocks from growers across the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland to prevent a market collapse. The EU has already committed to buying up 13.5 million tons as "intervention stocks," taking these stocks to their highest levels for six years, with about 60 percent of this coming from the new EU member states. The EU has tried to solve the surplus issue by increasing export subsidies on the free market.
Should the ruling coalition break up, Czech President Vaclav Klaus would
want the parties of a new government to guarantee that they will have
majority seats in parliament, Mr Klaus told Czech Radio on Thursday. The
Czech President reacted to speculation that the main party in the fragile
coalition, the Social Democrats, plans to form a minority government with
the tacit support of the Communists in parliament.
According to Prime Minister Stanislav Gross, the president's remark is one of many others made by those who hope to influence decision-making at this weekend's Social Democratic Party's nationwide congress, at which the party's future role in government will be discussed and a new leadership is elected.