No Confidence

Topolanek becomes the the first Czech Prime Minister to be voted out of office

Opinion | Lenka Rombova | April 2009

On Mar. 24, the opposition parties in the Czech Parliament pushed through a vote of no confidence, toppling the coalition cabinet of Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, which wasn’t strong enough to face the Social Democrats and the Communists together. Four rebels from the coalition voted with the opposition, parliamentarians Vlastimil Tlusty, and Jan Schwippel from the dominant Civil Democratic Party (ODS) and two parliamentarians and former members of the Green Party, Vera Jakoubkova, and Olga Zubova.

Topolanek’s cabinet has survived four votes of no confidence in all since the summer of 2006. With this vote, Topolanek becomes the first Czech Prime Minister ever to lose a no-confidence vote. He prefers to see it the other way around.

"I am the first Czech Prime Minister to keep a government together for three years when the balance was one to one," the Prime Minister says in reaction to the vote. The June 2006 election results posed a challenge for forming a majority government without the support of the Communists. A 200-seat Parliament needs 101 votes to pass a law. From the beginning, the coalition relied on votes from independent or opposition parliamentarians to win a majority. The successful vote of no confidence was a surprise to all parties, especially because the opposition had no plan.

So now, what are the options?

The Czech President, Vaclav Klaus, received Topolanek’s resignation on Mar. 26. Now the decision lies with Klaus, who would prefer agreement between both Democratic Parties. However, it appears unlikely that Topolanek (ODS) and Paroubek (CSSD) would be willing to agree on either cooperation or mutual tolerance.

Another option is a government made up of experts. Klaus has suggested the appointment of "specialists" who wouldn’t have to be politicians, who would guide the country to preliminary elections. The exact solution isn’t clear yet, but Klaus has hinted that the government that has resigned cannot stay until June, which is what the Social Democrats and Civic Democrats wanted.

Klaus could also appoint a politician to form a new government and seek a confidence vote from the Parliament. The delicate part is to win the vote of confidence in such an ambivalent parliamentary. Former Czech President Vaclav Havel suggested that if Klaus chose this option, he should give Topolanek another chance – so as not to repeat Havel’s 1997 decision, when the government resigned and Havel appointed the opposition leader to form a new government.

The Czech Republic will hold the Presidency in the European Union until July 1. Although the EU worries about maintaining stability during the economic crisis, Czech Party leaders and President Vaclav Klaus claim that domestic instability shouldn’t affect EU politics. Klaus, being known for his anti-European opinions, hopes for a fast change of government with no negative impact on the Presidency.

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