Czech Left suffers from EU presidency troublemaking

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Although the Czech Social Democrats (?SSD) are leading opinion polls, the current political crisis may not bode well for them, as they have been criticised by a wide range of political parties for having caused the fall of the government halfway through the Czech EU Presidency, EURACTIV.cz reported.

Ex-president Václav Havel, who is an iconic figure of the anti-Communist movement, voiced his support for the “new” ODS (centre-right Civic Democratic Party) and termed the fall of the government in the middle of the Czech EU presidency an act of “idiocy”. He expressed hope that people would not vote for ?SSD. 

Politicians criticised ?SSD for toppling Mirek Topolánek’s cabinet, as the Social Democrats failed to propose a ‘plan B’. 

Outgoing PM and ODS leader Topolánek suggested that his party might cooperate with a range of Havel’s supporters. This is unexpected, the Czech press commented, as Havel is known to have been at odds with ODS, especially with its old leader and current president, Václav Klaus. 

Topolánek also made overtures by highlighting the successful work of cabinet member and historic Havel supporter Alexandr Vondra, former deputy PM for European affairs. 

Election overlap 

ODS recently launched a negative campaign, aimed primarily at exposing the irresponsible actions, as it saw it, of ?SSD ahead of the European elections. But the campaign for the June EU elections in the Czech Republic is expected to overlap with preparations for early parliamentary elections, which are to be held in October this year. 

Commentators said that the parties seem to be focusing more on the October elections, which is especially true in the case of ODS. 

?SSD leader Ji?í Paroubek, who himself is not running in the EU elections, said on TV that his party is considering abandoning the issue of speedy euro adoption. According to Paroubek, the adoption of the single currency must not clash with a plan to raise public spending, which is central to ?SSD’s social policy. 

The Czech Republic was thrown into political turmoil last March when the minority government of Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek was ousted by a vote of no-confidence in parliament (EURACTIV 25/03/09). 

Czech President Václav Klaus, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the EU, appointed economist Jan Fischer as prime minister on 9 April, ahead of early elections due in October (EURACTIV 10/04/09). Fischer's cabinet of unaffiliated experts will mainly be asked to complete the Czech EU Presidency in the first half of 2009, prepare the state budget for 2010, and introduce anti-crisis measures. 

Polls conducted in April show that the Czech Social Democrats (?SSD) have the best chance of winning the EP elections, with some 23% of the vote, followed closely by the ODS (21%). Third place is occupied by the Communists (11%), fourth by KDU-?SL, a Christian Democratic party and ally of ODS (5%), and fifth by the Greens (5%). 

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