>Total deadlock in Prague: Klaus versus ODS?

>Negotiations over a new minority government in Prague have seemingly reached the point of collapse. Outgoing Social Democrat PM Jiří Paroubek seems finally finally to have shut the door on any deal to tolerate a minority Green/centre-right administration. Meanwhile, Lidové noviny (27 July) reported tense relations between President Klaus and ODS. The President reportedly wanted a caretaker government of experts backed by the two main parties to take office led by some technocratic banker or ex-politician for 2-3 years if there was no agreement on a minority government by the first week of August. Now we seem to be in that situation. Ostensibly the reason for this move would be the need for political stability to prepare the Czech Republic for the entry to Schengen zone in 2008.

LN quotes unnamed ODS politicians as speculating, however, that Klaus may also be thinking of his chances of re-election as President next year by giving Social Democrat MPs some reason to consider voting for him (as some did in 2003). However, the right’s gains in June’s parliamentary elections suggest that Klaus could win the Presidency in the third and final round of voting (a simple majority of MPs and Senators -141 votes – will suffice ) without needing to fish for votes among Social Democrats and Greens, provided that ODS and the Christian Democrats win 11 of the Senate seats 27 coming up for re-election this autumn (MfD 6 June 2006). Together the Christian Democrats and Civic Democrats now have 145 MPs and/or Senators. The Communists are unlikely to vote for Klaus again in 2007, having achieved what they wanted last time by helping dish moderate and modernizing Social Democratic PM Vladimir Špidla by sending Klaus to Prague Caste.

Although Klaus has indeed become a more independent, not to say ideosyncratic, political figure since stepping down as ODS leader in 2002, I suspect he is more concerned that Paroubek may somehow bulldoze his way back into office and is pragmatically opting for the lesser evil. Ironically, given ODS vigorous opposition to such non-political technocratic fixes – seen in its view of the caretaker Tošovský government of 1997-8 on which Klaus’s reported proposals seem to be modelled – it is possible that some ODS parliamentarians might turn against their founder and withhold votes for him in 2007. The Klaus aura seems to be wearing thin even for the Czech right these days. In response the President tells today’s LN by email, that the caretaker government was one of only four options and not the one he favoured or anticipated – a less than categoric rebuttal,

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