The political fallout has led the head of the Christian Democrats, Miroslav Kalousek, handing in his resignation on Friday evening. He has said that he will stay on as an MP. The developments over the last two days marked an unusual turn for Mr Kalousek, given that he repeatedly said his party would take part in no government relying on Communist Party support. But, he defended his sudden change of stance by saying it was motivated by the need to prevent the larger parties from changing the electoral system in a way that would have harmed the smaller parties, such as his own Christian Democrats.
Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said on Friday that he saw no reason why the European currency - the euro - shouldn't be adopted by the Czech Republic by 2010 as planned, if his Social Democrats formed a new government soon - something not likely following the latest decision by the Christian Democrats to pull out of talks. Mr Sobotka told the Reuters news agency further consultation with the Central Bank would be necessary, to determine how advantageous joining the eurozone in 2010 will be for the country. He also said he gave priority to maintaining current high economic growth above adoption of the euro. A number of economists interviewed by the Czech news agency CTK have said suggested that 2012 or 2013 could be more realistic dates for adoption of the currency.
Four Czech football clubs - Sparta, Slavia, Mlada Boleslav, and Liberec have learned which teams they will face in the opening round of the UEFA CUP. The draw took place on Friday. Sparta will face the Scottish side Heart of Midlothian, Slavia the Tottenham Hotspurs, Mlada Boleslav will challenge Olympique Marseille, and Liberec will face Red Star Belgrade.
The Christian Democrats have said they are pulling out of talks on joining
a left-of-centre coalition that would have needed to rely on the support
the communists to produce a parliamentary majority. On Thursday the
party's leader Miroslav Kalousek surprised many within his own party when
he agreed to talks with the head of the Social Democrats, Jiri Paroubek.
He in turn had jettisoned negotiations with Prime Minister designate Mirek
Topolanek. Mr Kalousek initially gained approval from his party's
leadership, but on Friday many members of his party expressed
dissatisfaction to the idea of entering a minority government relying on
On Friday, members of the party in three regions in the Czech Republic - Brno, Havirov, and Zlin - called on the party leaders to resign, while Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda told the CTK news agency that he had "never supported nor would support" the move by the leadership.
The party's decision to now scrap talks with the Social Democrats looks set to prolong a political stalemate which has lasted since the general elections ended in deadlock in June.
Preceding the latest developments, the Social Democrat and Christian Democratic parties took part in negotiations early on Friday, outlining priorities for their proposed government. Discussed were issues of church and state, as well as introducing changes to the make-up of parliament to prevent future parliamentary deadlock. Social Democrat deputy chairman Bohuslav Sobotka said that his party had agreed to a number of significant compromises. Later, Social Democrat head Jiri Paroubek - in Vienna on Friday - denied promising the Christian Democrats half the posts in any new cabinet, but did stress they should hold important posts, for example, the Interior Ministry.
Earlier, before the Christian Democrats' announcement they would pull
out of talks on a left-of-centre cabinet, Prime minister designate
Mirek Topolanek revealed that his party was prepared to form a
caretaker government to lead the country to early elections. Mr
Topolanek said that he would present his proposed minority government
to the president by the end of the next week. The prime minister
designate declined to say who would be named to the new cabinet. But,
given the developments later in the day, it is not yet clear whether
this proposal will go forward.
If Mr Topolanek does push for a minority Civic Democrat government the decision will be President Klaus' whether or not to appoint the proposed ministers. If he does, the government will then have thirty days to ask the Chamber of Deputies for a vote of confidence.
After an emergency meeting of its executive leadership the Civic
Democratic Party said it would not support such a government under any
circumstances. Prime minister designate Mirek Topolanek said his Civic
Democratic Party was prepared to form a caretaker government which
would lead the country to early elections and he called on all
democrats across the political spectrum to prevent the return of
communists to power. Mr. Topolanek also denounced the way that his
rival Jiri Paroubek walked out of the bilateral talks on a minority
Civic Democrat government saying that he had lied when he said they had
collapsed due to the Civic Democrat's unwillingness to compromise. They
collapsed, Mr. Topolanek countered, because his rival was hungry for
power regardless of the fact that he was defeated in the June general
In related news, the leader of the Green Party Martin Bursik called a press conference on Thursday evening to say that his party would not enter into a coalition or vote for a government supported by the communists.
The political turbulence has slightly weakened the Czech crown and caused concern among investors that the 2007 state budget and 2010 target for the adoption of the euro currency might be affected unless a new government is formed soon.
The outgoing Social Democratic cabinet is still discussing the possibility of sending Czech soldiers to Lebanon, to join an international peacekeeping force administered by the United Nations. According to Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda, Friday's meeting of European Union foreign ministers will be key to the Czech Republic's decision. Mr. Svoboda says that it is important to clarify whether the Czech mission's mandate would be one of peacekeeping and observation, or whether the units would also be charged with disarming Hizballah. The foreign minister is also concerned about the costs of such a mission, and says that it must not jeopardize ongoing Czech peacekeeping in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo, or Bosnia-Hercegovina.
After a one-on-one meeting on Thursday afternoon Mr. Kalousek said he was in favour of a coalition government even if it meant leaning on the Communists for support. He said he would present the idea to his party's executive leadership. The Social Democrats and Christian Democrats are both represented in the outgoing cabinet. They said they would seek support for their coalition government across the political spectrum. The two sides have scheduled talks on a policy programme.
Pluto on Thursday lost its seven-decade status as the ninth and outermost planet of the solar system in a decision taken by the world's top astrononomical body the International Astronomical Union meeting in Prague. Pluto's status had been contested for many years by astronomers, who now said its tiny size and eccentric orbit precluded it from joining the eight other acknowledged planets: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.
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