You are here: Home Články / Articles 1997 What next in the Czech Republic

What next in the Czech Republic

The collapse of the government of Vacav Klaus leaves the Czech Republic in a difficult situation. None of the likely outcomes of the current crisis, with the possible exception of early elections, guarantees the creation of a stable government. The strongest party in the ruling coalition that collapsed over the weekend--the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) of Vaclav Klaus--is hopelessly split. So is the smallest of the coalition parties, the Civic Democratic Allaince (ODA). As a result, any government formed on the current coalition basis is unlikely to receive the necessary majority support in the parliament.

The congress of the ODS, scheduled for 13-14 December, is not likely to transform the ODS again into a united party. The warring factions within the ODS--the group of anti-Klaus rebels and the supporters of Klaus--appear to be of equal strenght. The ODS parliamnetary caucus is also split. This means that even if the congress results in a victory of one of the two rival groups in the party, the caucus is likely to remain split. The defeat of Klaus may result in the departure from the ODS of not only Klaus himsef but also those deputies who have expressed strong support for him. Converesely, the victory of Klaus would most likely promt anti-Klaus rebels, inclusing those in the ODS caucus, to leave the party.

Forming a stable government on the current coalition basis under such circumstances will be a daunting task. Until the crisis erupted, the coalition had 100 seats in the 200-member parliament. But a future coalition government could most likely include only one of the warring groups within the ODS. Moreover, the split within the ODA has prompted some ODA deputies to leave the ODA. Although they have pledged to support ODA policies in the parliament, their support is at best tentative. All these facts mean that any new government could only be a minority one and could be easily brought down in a no-confidence vote.

Vaclav Klaus has said that if he wins at the ODS congress, the ODS will leave the ruling coalition. Under this scenario, a government could not survive, unless it won the backing of the opposition Social Democrats (CSSD. However, the CSSD is not likely to enter into a coalition with both the ODA and the third current coalition party, the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL). CSSD leaders have made clear they may be interested in a coalition with the KDU-CSL only, but only after next elections.

A government consisting of non-partisan experts, or a coalition government headed by a non partisan, would not be in a much better situation. It would still have to win support from major political parties.Given the likely constallation of political forces after the ODS congress, the likelihood of receiving strong enough support in the parliament is small.

Thus, the most likely option is early elections. However, under the Czech Constitution calling early elections is a protracted process. The president can call them only if he fails three times in his attempts to name a stable government (a government that would win majority support in the parliament). While the first two times he can name prime ministers of his own choosing, the third time he has to follow the recommendation of the chairman of the parliament's ower chamber. Exhausting all three attempts may last as long as six months. Moreover, having to go through the procedure of naming three successive governments that are destined to fail may be politically harmful for the president. It would also hardly inrease the confidence of the public in the democratic process.

The CSSD has drafted a constitutional amendment under which the parliament would dissolve itself and call early elections by June nect year at the latest. Altough such an option is not appealing to constitutional purists, it may in the end be the only way to speed up the process and call the ealections, for example, as early as April. Until then the country would have to be run by a caretaker government.

There are, again, several options under this scenario. First, should the elections be held in three or four months, the current government of Vaclav Klaus could stay on as te caretaker government. However, given theODAs and KDU-CSL's growing lack of enthusiasm for working with Klaus even ona temporary basis, this may not be a viable option. Another option is to name a caretaker government consisting of the same ministers as the current government but headed by someone else than Klaus, for example a non-partisan expert. Yet another option is to name a caretaker government without ODS ministers. Both of the last two options would, however, require support from the CSSD. The CSSD could be willing to support such a caretaker government in exchange for the willingness of the ODA and the KDU-CSL to support passing of a constitutional amendment on early elections.

Clearly, the situation is confused. One reason is that in 1992, when the Czech Constitution was being drafted, Vaclav Klaus and his allies sought to reduce the powers of the president. They saw Vaclav Havel as a political rival, whose powers whould be cut to a minimum. As a result the president does not have sufficient powers to end the current crisis by, for example, dissolving the parliament and calling early elections faster than the constitution allows. This constitutional flaw may prove to be a major problem in the coming weeks.

Reuters - 4. 12. 1997