You are here: Home Články / Articles 1999 What are the possible majority coalitions

What are the possible majority coalitions

The worsening economic situation in the Czech Republic and the recent critical evaluation by the European Union of the Czech Republic's performance in meeting various EU membership criteria have spurred a discussion about the need to create a majority government coalition. The minority government of the Social Democratic Party (CSSD), which was made possible under the so-called opposition agreement between the CSSD and the Civic Democratic Party (ODS), is clearly too weak to initiate major reforms and to be able to push through the parliament hundreds of new laws that the EU demands from the Czech Republic.

Unless the four democratic political parties that are represented in the parliament stop boycotting the Communist Party, only four majority coalitions are possible: the grand coalition of the CSSD and the ODS; the right-of-center coalition of the ODS, Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL), and the Union of Freedom (US); the left- right coalition of the CSSD, the KDU-CSL, and the US; and the coalition of "national salvation" all four democratic parties.

It is clear that each of those possible coalitions would face serious internal tension for a variety of reasons. At the same time, the tasks that lie ahead of the Czech Republic are in many ways non-ideological. Reforming the judiciary and the state administration system, making the market economy more transparent, privatizing major banks, or restructuring companies are not "leftist" or "rightist" goals. The EU lists such objectives in its recent report on the Czech Republic in a non-ideological language.

Any of the four possible coalitions could, therefore, easily find a common language, if politicians really wanted to. Ideological barriers that currently exist between political parties are to a large extent artificial. The real causes of political parties' inability to seek consensus rest in certain specific features of Czech political culture, such as strong personal rivalries and grudges among politicians and the understanding of politics by political actors as mainly fighting for power and privileges. As a result, the interests of the state and society as a whole are often subordinated to particular individual interests.

The EU's recommendations for improvements are in many ways identical with the steps that the Czech Republic will need to make anyway if it is to overcome the deepening economic crisis. Major parties may differ in their accents when it comes, for example, to the role the state should play in the economy. However, they could easily find a common ground in most other areas.

The ODS and the US seem to be the main obstacles to creating a majority coalition. The right-of-center US has propounded highly ideological views, which has made impossible any cooperation with the leftist CSSD. Although various party leaders have recently expressed more pragmatic views (with some of them saying they can imagine forming a coalition with the CSSD and the KDU-CSL), the party remains split on how to proceed.

The ODS has proved to be more pragmatic than the US but some views of the party, and its leader Vaclav Klaus in particular, on what the Czech Republic should do in order to improve its performance differ quite significantly from other democratic parties. Klaus is known for his "eurosceptic" views. And he and his party are opposed to some very concrete requirements of the EU, such as the decentralization of the state administration system.

Some politicians who worked under Vaclav Klaus in the two governments he headed (1992-1997) are staunchly opposed to work with Klaus again, citing his style of leadership. Such reservations are an important obstacle to creating a right-of-center coalition, in particular. But even a grand coalition would face similar problems. Klaus and CSSD Chairman Milos Zeman have been political rivals for many years. Although they have been able to cooperate to some extent under the opposition agreement, it is hardly conceivable that either of the two could work as a member of a government headed by the other.

A majority coalition is not likely to be created soon. The CSSD and the KDU-CSL will hold important congresses in the spring, and not much is likely to happen until then. But pressure on political leaders to find solutions to the deepening crisis will grow both at home and abroad. Moreover, the CSSD may not want to be held responsible for the worsening situation. After all, some opinion polls indicate that the party's popularity has already dropped by almost 10 percent since the June elections. The creation of a majority government in 1999 is thus quite likely.

Reuters - 5. 1. 1999