You are here: Home Články / Articles 1999 Is a new coalition in the offing?

Is a new coalition in the offing?

Following the parliament's vote on the state budget, during which the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) helped the Social Democratic (CSSD) government's proposal to pass, the two parties announced they intend to work together more closely in the future. Although CSSD Chairman Milos Zeman and KDU- CSL Chairman Jan Kasal stopped short of declaring they intend to create a coalition, some political observers expect the two parties to do just that during the course of 1999.

The fact the two parties have publicly announced their intention to cooperate partly undermines the so- called opposition agreement that the CSSD and the Civic Democratic Party of Vaclav Klaus signed following the parliamentary elections last year. The agreement does not forbid the CSSD from cooperating with other parties on an ad hoc basis, but should the CSSD cooperate with another party on a more permanent basis, the opposition agreement could be in jeopardy.

The KDU-CSL has emphasized that it is not yet establishing an alliance with the CSSD. It intends to judge each draft law submitted by the CSSD government on an individual basis. At the same time, however, KDU-CSL leaders have repeatedly said that the party is ready to participate in creating a new government if it meets some basic conditions; for example, it must be pro-European and it must not rely on the support of the Communist Party.

Initially, the KDU-CSL also insisted that the government be a majority one. However, some KDU-CSL leaders have been softening their stances when it comes to this condition. The KDU-CSL, it seems, would now be content with participating in a minority government that could rely on stable support from the Union of Freedom (US) that the US would declare in advance. In order to attract the US to such a proposal, some KDU-CSL leaders suggest that several non-partisan experts nominated by the US could be included as ministers in a government of the CSSD and the KDU-CSL.

Some KDU-CSL leaders also hope that the US may decide to participate directly in a coalition with the CSSD and the KDU-CSL. The US is internally split over such a step. A party congress, to be held in February, will determine what direction the party will take in the future. Although US leaders maintain that the unity of the party cannot be shaken, political observers do not rule out that the victory of ideological fundamentalists opposed to any coalition with the CSSD could split the party. The coalition of the CSSD and the KDU-CSL would have 94 seats in the 200 member lower chamber of the parliament. The defection of 7 US deputies to the KDU-CSL--a step helping to create a majority government--cannot be entirely ruled out.

It is also possible that some Communist deputies could defect to the CSSD. The Communist Party appears to be increasingly disunited over its policies. Some party members and deputies are apparently not happy with the fact that the Communist Party has currently no coalition potential. Prior to the budget vote some Communist deputies appeared to be softening their hard-line stances on the Czech Republic's membership in NATO. Some party members are reportedly also not happy with the current leadership's insistence on keeping the word "Communist" in the party's name.

A coalition between the CSSD and the KDU-CSL could be formed by creating an entirely new government or by gradually including KDU-CSL ministers in the current one. In both cases, however, the balance of political forces, as it exists now, would change. The opposition agreement would collapse, which would, for example, result in changes in the posts of chairmen of the parliament's two chambers (which are currently held by the ODS). The ODS would be become purely an opposition party, which would affect its style of work. Some observers suggest that the ODS, used to holding power, could be adversely affected in such a case.

At any rate, it is clear that pressure on expanding the base of the current government will grow. The country is headed for more economic problems, and the CSSD will need stable support if it is to push necessary laws through the parliament. Of course, the CSSD could also try to form a grand coalition with the ODS, but it is ideologically much closer to the KDU-CSL.

Reuters - 22. 1. 1999