Following a meeting of the Social Democratic party's leadership in Prague on Friday, party leader Vladimir Spidla has announced that Social Democrat Lubomir Zaoralek is likely to become new Chairman of the lower house of the Czech parliament. In the previous parliament, Mr. Zaoralek held the post of chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee. Mr. Spidla also informed journalists that early next week consultations on the composition of a new cabinet should be finished. It remains to be seen if the Social Democrats will agree to the candidates put forward by the centre-right Freedom Union and the Christian Democrats. The three parties have conducting coalition talks on forming a new cabinet and on Wednesday they signed a coalition agreement.
The leadership of the Freedom Union has been discussing the pace of lowering the state budget deficit, that formed part of coalition talks with the Social Democrats on Wednesday. The slower pace put through by the Social Democrats led the Freedom Union leader, Hana Marvanova, to step down from her post on Thursday. However, Mrs. Marvanova said that although she did not agree with the new cabinet's financial policy, she would give it her full support because of its pro-European orientation.
Social Democrat leader Vladimir Spidla has said that the new cabinet will have 17 ministers, but an 18th ministerial post could be created for a minister for European matters. There will be yet another new ministry - the ministry of information technology. The two centre-right parties, the Christian Democrats and the Freedom Union should occupy six seats in the new cabinet, but no concrete names have yet been mentioned. President Vaclav Havel expects the new cabinet be appointed on July 15th, and Vladimir Spidla said he would do his best not to disappoint Mr. Havel's expectations.
Mr Pilip, the interim head of the Freedom Union, told journalists that despite the resignation of its chairwoman, the Freedom Union wants to successfully complete talks on a coalition government with the Social Democrats and the Christian Democrats. Ivan Pilip said he would not seek any ministerial post in the future government and would not even run for the post of party chairman. On Monday Mr Pilip will start debate on when to call an extraordinary national conference of the Freedom Union.
The chairman of the Christian Democrats, Cyril Svoboda, described the resignation of Hana Marvanova as an unfortunate step, considering the nearly completed negotiations on the new coalition government. The deputy chairman of the Christian Democrats Jan Kasal said the whole Coalition grouping, that is the Christian Democrats and the Freedom Union, were going to be affected by Ms Marvanova's move but he expressed hope the coalition talks would not be threatened.
The leader of the Freedom Union, Hana Marvanova, resigned on Thursday explaining she was not satisfied with the results of the coalition talks between her party, the Christian Democrats and the ruling Social Democrats. Ms Marvanova said, however, that as an MP for the Freedom Union she was ready to vote in favour of the future government in a parliamentary confidence vote. Hana Marvanova says she plans to remain a member of the Freedom Union and does not want the party to be shaken by her step. According to the party statutes, the Freedom Union is now to be led by the first deputy chairman Ivan Pilip who failed to be elected to the lower house in the mid-June general elections.
Following the resignation of Hana Marvanova, the leader of the Social Democrats, Vladimir Spidla, met representatives of the Freedom Union and the Christian Democrats, the two partners in the Coalition grouping. After the meeting, Mr Spidla told journalists that negotiations on the future government were not threatened and they were to continue. The leadership of the Social Democrats is to discuss the matter on Friday.
The Social Democrats have agreed on the forming of a new government with the two parties in the Coalition grouping, the Christian Democrats and the Freedom Union. After talks on Wednesday night, the leader of the Christian Democrats, Cyril Svoboda, said that negotiations on the division of ministries should be completed in the next few days. The Social Democrats, who are led by Prime Minister-to be Vladimir Spidla and came first in elections almost three weeks ago, are to have 10 cabinet seats; the other two parties will have six between them. The number of deputy chairs in the Chamber of Deputies will reflect the number of seats held by all five parties in the lower house. The Social Democrats will have the chairmanship and one deputy chair, the Civic Democrats two deputy chairs and the other parties, including the Communists, will have one each.
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.
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.
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