Czech Socialists begin talks to form government

The Czech President, Vaclav Havel, has asked the Socialist leader, Vladimir Spidla, to form the new government, following the party’s victory in general elections.

Despite winning nearly one third of the vote, the Socialist Government will not be strong. Mr Spidla will try to set up a coalition with a small Centrist party, which would give the Government only a single seat majority in the Parliament.

The Socialists gained 70 seats, and the Centrist Coalition of Christian Democrats and the Freedom Union 31 out of 200 seats.

Mr Spidla had said he would not invite the Communists to join the Government. He said that other political deals were possible, including a minority government.

The new Government’s main task will be to bring the Czech Republic into the EU. The victory of the pro-European Socialists will ensure that Prague remains a keen supporter of EU membership. The new Government is also expected to speed up economic reforms and fight widespread corruption.

 

The Socialists, who have led the Czech Government for the last four years, have won the 14-15 June elections with 30 per cent of the vote. Their main rivals, the conservative Civic Democrats, won 25 per cent of the vote. The Communists were third with 18 per cent, and the Centrist Coalition fourth with 14 per cent. No other party won enough votes to enter the Parliament.

The turnout was only 57 per cent, the lowest since the restoration of democracy in 1989.

For the last four years, the Czech Republic was governed by a coalition of the Social Democratic Party, the biggest parliamentary party, and the Civic Democratic Party, the second biggest parliamentary party. The two parties co-operated on the basis of an agreement on "support without participation". The Civic Democratic Party leader, Vaclav Klaus, became the Speaker of the Parliament under this agreement.

 

The result of the parliamentary election will have an impact on the election of a new President of State in January 2003, who will replace the current President, Vaclav Havel. The President is elected by Parliament under the Czech constitution.

 

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