Meanwhile, the Social Democrat leader Vladimir Spidla, who is positioned to become the country's next prime minister, is preparing for talks with potential coalition partners. Mr. Spidla has ruled out a coalition with both the Civic Democrats and the Communists, saying that he would first talk to the leaders of the centre-right Coalition. A governing coalition between the Social Democrats, the Christian Democrats and the Freedom Union is seen as the most likely set-up although it would command only a slim one-vote majority in Parliament. If these talks fail, the Social Democrat leader has said he is not ruling out a minority government with the support of one or more parliamentary parties.
The Communist party has protested against efforts to marginalize its influence on Czech politics, despite its relatively high rate of support. Communist Party leader Miroslav Grebenicek told journalists that the party had prepared a three member negotiating team and was ready to join the talks. We find it hard to believe that the Social Democrats would want to uphold a long outdated party resolution about not cooperating with the Communists, Mr. Grebenicek said, referring to a pledge that the Social Democrats made after the fall of communism in an effort to distance themselves from the Communists and build a credible party in their own right. The Communists claim that the Social Democrats should reconsider this pledge because it is allegedly against the wishes of 18% of the electorate. The Social Democrats show no intention of doing so.
Vaclav Klaus, the head of the centre right Civic Democratic Party has openly admitted defeat, saying, shortly after his meeting with President Havel, that his party had little choice but to go into opposition . Mr. Klaus refrained from commenting on his own uncertain future, refusing to say whether he would accept full responsibility for the party's show down and resign from his post. He told journalists that he must first consult the matter with the party leadership . The election results appear to rule out any ambitions of a return to power for the 60 year old former economics professor and his chances of becoming the next Czech president are slim.
Reactions from abroad to the outcome of the parliamentary elections in the Czech Republic has been generally positive. The EU commissioner for enlargement Gunter Verheugen said the election results confirmed the Czech Republic's pro- EU orientation and presented the country as a stable democracy. A positive assessment has likewise come from deputies of the European Parliament. German officials have likewise welcomed the idea of a government with a strong pro-EU orientation and the Slovak Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda has described the election results as "encouraging for future cooperation". Observers from the OSCE / Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe/ said the elections had been free and fair.
Early election results from the Czech Republic's two day parliamentary
elections show a clear victory for the country's left wing
parties. The ruling Social Democrats have won the elections with over 30
percent of the vote. This positions party leader Vladimir
Spidla for the top government post. Shortly after the news broke Mr.
Spidla shared his feelings with Radio Prague:
" It is a clear victory for the Social Democrats. The Social Democratic Party has established itself as a stable political force which is a permanent part of the Czech political scene and has a potential for the future. We are a strong party in our own right and people trust us."
The Social Democrats attracted voters by promising to build a dense web of social security and benefits. The party's main slogan was "We won't leave you in the cold".
The Social Democrats' main rival , the centre-right Civic Democratic party led by the former prime minister Vaclav Klaus, received over 24% of the votes and has openly admitted defeat. Mr. Klaus said he would consider his share of responsibility for the defeat and inform the public of his plans for the future after consulting with the party leadership.
In a surprise development the Communist party has placed third with more than 18 percent of the vote outstripping the Coalition, an alliance of two centre-right parties. According to early results the Coalition has received more than 14 percent of the votes. No other party has crossed the 5% threshold needed to win parliamentary seats.
In spite of their election victory the Social Democrats have not received enough votes to give them a majority in Parliament and analysts predict intense negotiations over the formation of a governing coalition. In his first reaction to the early results, Social Democrat leader Vladimir Spidla ruled out a governing coalition with either the Civic Democrats or the Communist Party saying that he would first talk to the centre-right Coalition. He has not ruled out a minority government with support from what he called "democratic parties in Parliament". Voter turnout in the two day Parliamentary elections is reported to have been just under 60%.
For the first time ever, Czechs living abroad were also able to take part in the elections. Voting took place at Czech embassies and consulates, but the number of people who registered to vote abroad was much lower than expected. Of the estimated 70,000 eligible voters only around 2,000 registered. It is not yet clear how many of them actually cast their ballot.
Meanwhile, President Vaclav Havel has refused to comment on the early results of the elections. He said his chief interest was in seeing a viable coalition set- up which would receive approval in the Lower House. Mr. Havel plans to meet with the leaders of the Social Democrats, Civic Democrats and the Coalition on Sunday to discuss their plans and priorities. He has refused to congratulate or meet with the Communists.
The Czech Republic's eight million voters have begun casting their ballots
in elections to the Czech lower house. The polls opened at two o'clock
on Friday afternoon, and will close at ten on Friday night, before opening
again on Saturday at eight am and closing at two in the afternoon,
when vote-counting will begin. No party is expected to win a
majority and either the governing Social Democrats or the Civic Democratic
Party are expected to get the most seats in the 200-seat lower house.
Among the first to cast their ballots were President Vaclav Havel and the outgoing prime minister, Milos Zeman, as well as the leaders of several of the biggest parties.
Meanwhile, voting has also been taking place at Czech embassies and consulates around the world. It is the first time Czechs living abroad have been allowed to vote in elections in the Czech Republic. However, the number of Czechs who registered to vote was much lower than had been anticipated. Of the estimated 70,000 who were eligible, only around 2,000 registered.