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Support for Czech caretaker gov't hinges on new FinMin


13:52, July 14, 2013

PRAGUE, July 13 (Xinhua) -- A new Czech government was sworn in by President Milos Zeman this week to defuse a political crisis that has dogged the country since last month.

However, the government, led by Jiri Rusnok, seems imperiled by Rusnok's choice of former Prime Minister Jan Fischer as finance minister.

While the opposition parties were weighing up whether or not to support the caretaker government in a vote of confidence, revelations about Fischer were undermining the fragile support that Rusnok and Zeman had been building.

The opposition Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSCM) and Public Affairs Party (VV) have indicated they will vote to support the new government, so everything has been hinging on the largest party in the parliament, the Social Democratic Party (CSSD), which opinion polls suggest is heading towards a strong win at the next election.

Considering the fact that the new government is decidedly left-leaning, and contains many former members of the Social Democrats (some of whom left the party to join the government), it would not have been completely surprising had the leadership of CSSD decided to support the government and bide its time until next year's election.

The ideal situation for CSSD, though, would be snap elections, which would most likely result in a strong mandate and the prime ministership for its leader Bohuslav Sobotka.

The difficulty in this is that the president, a former member of CSSD and a leftist himself, opposes this option and is putting all his might behind the caretaker government he has named. Opposing the new government would mean butting heads with the president, something that CSSD has been loath to do.

Tuesday's revelations that the remaining debt from Fischer's presidential campaign, which totalled more than 5 million Crowns (250,000 U.S. dollars), had been paid out in full within 24 hours of the announcement of his acceptance of the finance minister post, have given the Social Democrats a new reason to oppose Rusnok's government.

Four million Crowns (200,000 dollars) out of that amount was given in cash, raising suspicions even further.

Sobotka has stated unequivocally that Fischer is an obstacle to CSSD's support of the new government, arguing that in other countries a minister would be forced to stand down if he or she came under such suspicion.

"The question is whether or not the resolution of Fischer's debt is connected with his selection to Rusnok's government," Sobotka said.

"The second variant is that there are people who connect the further function of Mr. Fischer in the executive with some concrete expectations. These are arguments as to why Jan Fischer should leave the government," he said, before arguing that should the situation have arisen in former Prime Minister Petr Necas's government, the Social Democrats would have definitely put forward a vote of no confidence.

Even with the support of the Social Democrats, it is improbable that the caretaker government will be successful in its bid for a vote of confidence.

For that to succeed, they will need to pick off at least one of the coalition parties who were replaced by Rusnok's government. Those parties still hold a majority of 101 seats in the 200-seat lower house, leaving the prospect of yet more instability in Czech politics the only likely outcome.

The president has indicated that should his caretaker government fail to gain confidence in parliament, he is willing to allow both the Social Democrats and the Civic Democrats (ODS, the lead partner in the governing coalition that just lost power) a chance to form the government.

But, he conceded, CSSD has almost no chance of forming a government and ODS have only a razor-thin majority, so for him the only way forward is the way he has proposed, with an unelected caretaker government representing his interests solidifying his hold on power.

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