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Designating Tosovsky for Prime minister is good news

President Vaclav Havel's decision to name Central Bank Governor Josef Tosovsky as the Czech Republic's new prime minister is likely to end the country's political crisis. Tosovsky is a good choice for several reasons: he is well respected by political parties across the political spectrum; he is a respected economist and banker, trusted by foreign investors; and he is a non-confrotational person, who has, however, often been able to persuade his opponents to accept his views.

In proposing Tosovsky for the post, Christian Democratic Union (KDU-CSL) Chiarman Josef Lux, who was asked by Havel, to prenegotiate the composition of the new government, has showwn good political instincts. Tosovsky is a non-partisan, whose credentials will impress most Czech politicians. Lux, who himself had been seen as a top candidate for the premiership, would face problems in winning strong enough support from other political parties--possible success of a Lux-led government could threaten their electoral chances. Tosovsky does represent a direct threat to any political party. Outgoing Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus, however, may not be entirely happy about Tosovsky's appointment: a good performance by competent and respected Tosovsky could further damage Klaus's image of the country's most competent economist turned politician.

Much will depend on the composition of Tosovsky's cabinet. Altough Lux had done a very good job in selecting several viable candidates for each kinisterial post, Tosovsky may have ideas of his own. He has indicated he would prefer playing a role of his own in selecting ministers, rather

than simply accepting Lux's choices. On the other hand, it is likely that his and Lux's views will in most cases be similar.

Tosovsky will be face a difficult political dilemma. If he keeps in the government Lux and Civic Democratic Party (ODA) Chairman Jiri Skalicky, the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) of Vaclav Klaus may either demand to be represented in the government by Klaus or will demand that no party leader be represented in the government. Both Lux and Skalicky, however, represent continuity with the previous government. Without their participaton, the limited mandate of the temporary government formed by Tosovsky could be seen as being reduced to a minimum.

Klaus's participation in the government, on the other hand, is unacceptable to both Lux and Skalicky. Both KDU-CSL and the ODA left the five-year old coaltion with the ODS at the end of November ostentibly because the ODS had been unable and unwilling to explain its dubious party financing. Equally important in the two parties's decision was Lux's and Skalickys feelings that they could no longer work with Klaus. The 13-14 December congress of the ODS, however, reelected Klaus and refused to deal the financial scandals that had rocked the ODS and cuased the coalition government to collapse.

In fact, the ODS congress has transformed the ODS into a political fortress, whose main program is Vaclav Klaus Klaus's opponents were defeated and may soon leave the party. Both the ODA and the KDU-CSL would politically damage themselves, should they be willing to work with Klaus ina new government. It may even be difficult for them to accept other ODS members as ministers in the new governent.

If Tosovsky decides to include Lux and Skalicky in his cabinet, the government will most likely have to rely on the support of those ODS deputies who have rebelled against Klaus. Some anti-Klaus rebels, such as Fnance Minister Ivan Pilip, could even be included in the new government. Under such a scenario, the Tosovsky government would probably have active support of the ODA, the KDU-CSL, and up to 40 ODS deputies; and it would have tacit support of the opposition Social Democrats (CSSD) and possibly even the Communists.

The government is likely pass a vote of confidence only if it openly declares it is leading the country to early elections. Both the CSSD and the Communist have said they insist on early elections. The ODA and most ODS deputies--among them some of those who opposed Klaus--however appear to be opposed to early elections. And they are resolutely opposed to passing a constitutional amendment under which the parliament could dissolve itself and early elections could be called. Therefore, Tosovsky may find it difficult to combine the CSSD's demand that the government be only temporary with the two civic parties's ideas.

However, no matter whether a constitutional amendment on early elections is passed, the question at this point is not whether there will be early elections but rather when. A constitutional amendment would probably speed things up. Without it, early elections can be called after three consecutive governments have failed to pass a vote of confidence. Another possibility is that the parliamentfails to act for three months on a draft law submitted by the goverment to which the government attached a request for a vote of confidence. Under this scenario, a political agreement of a simple majorityof deputies in the parliament could trigger early elections.

Reuters - 17. 12. 1997