Sat, Mar 28, 2009 - Page 6 News List

Czech leaders battle stalemate

CABINET-BUILDING After Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek’s resignation, opposition leader Paroubek said the ‘best case scenario’ would see national polls held in October

AGENCIES , PRAGUE

Czech opposition leader Jiri Paroubek said yesterday he would start talks to support a new government to lead the country to an early election after the fall of Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek.

If successful, it could help avoid a political stalemate after Topolanek’s center-right, minority-backed Cabinet lost a vote of confidence amid a worsening economic crisis, halfway through the Czech Republic’s six-month EU presidency.

“I am going to negotiate for a Czech government that will have the confidence of the lower house and which will also bring the country to early elections,” Paroubek, head of the opposition-leading Social Democrats, told journalists after meeting Czech President Vaclav Klaus. “The best case scenario [for the vote] would be in October.”

Paroubek said he would talk with all parties but did not say who he would prefer to lead the government or who could back it. He has said his party would not take part in the government and that it would prefer a Cabinet of experts.

On Thursday, Klaus accepted Topolanek’s resignation and said a new Cabinet must be formed soon.

But he set conditions that any administration must have majority support, which would probably require an agreement between the Social Democrats and Topolanek’s Civic Democrats.

Topolanek himself has also proposed early elections as quickly as possible, which could allow Paroubek’s proposal to gain traction.

The Czech Constitution makes it difficult to organize early elections and analysts have predicted a protracted political standoff.

Klaus asked the prime minister and the Cabinet to govern until a new government can be appointed.

Klaus said he would prefer the crisis to be solved quickly, given the global economic downturn and the country’s obligations with the Czech Republic holding the rotating EU presidency.

Lawmakers in parliament’s lower house voted 101-96 on Tuesday to oust the government. The move embarrassed the Czech leader, coming just days before a visit by US President Barack Obama.

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