General elections in the Czech Republic have produced a hung parliament with the two opposing camps holding exactly half of the Parliament’s 200 seats.
In the 2-3 June elections, the first after the Czech Republic’s joining the EU in May 2004, the opposition Civic Democrats (ODS) under Mirek Topolanek took 35.38%, equalling 81 seats. Their two preferred coalition partners turned out poorly, with the Christian Democrats winning only 7.22% (13 seats) and the Greens 6.29% (six seats).
Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek’s Social Democrats took 32.32% of votes and 74 seats, but their Communist partners, who have been out of power since the 1989 ‘Velvet Revolution’, won 12.81% (26 seats). Each camp therefore holds exactly 100 of the 200 seats in the Prague Parliament.
In an attempt to break the resulting stalemate, President Vaclav Klaus asked Topolanek on 5 June to start talks on forming a government. Klaus, a eurosceptic, is the founder and honorary chairman of Topolanek’s ODS party. The ODS, which has been out of government since June 1996, advocates a 15% flat tax on income, corporate revenues and value-added. While Topolanek said he was going to be firm on the flat tax project, his shadow Finance Minister Valdimir Tlusty said, that due to the narrow outcome of the elections it was “probably out of question”.
Paroubek refused to congratulate Topolanek, claiming the ODS had violated electoral campaign laws when it released a secretive police dossier on alleged links between government officials and organised crime during the last week before the elections.
However, Paroubek said his party was ready to take over the opposition leadership. At the same time he said the opposition would make life uncomfortable for a future Prime Minister Topolanek. “You’re not even going to be able to wash your hands without the opposition,” Paroubek said, according to a Financial Times report.
The alienation between the two party leaders seems to place a German-style grand coalition, which would have been Klaus’s preference, beyond reach.