Czech Right-Wing Coalition May Cling to Majority

Prime Minister Petr Nečas’ government could win a slight majority if his junior coalition partner splits.

Prime Minister Petr Nečas of the Czech Republic in Paris, France, February 11, 2011
Prime Minister Petr Nečas of the Czech Republic in Paris, France, February 11, 2011

The Czech Republic’s right-wing government may cling to a legislative majority despite the defection of one of its partners. That would enable it to avoid elections and continue to implement a strict austerity agenda.

Deputy Prime Minister Karolina Peake of the minority Public Affairs party told the Reuters news agency that she had the ten votes necessary to provide a slim majority for the government.

With her statement, Peake parted with Public Affairs leader Radek John who announced on Monday that this party would go into “constructive opposition.”

The liberal anti-corruption party, which commands 24 seats in the Czech Chamber of Deputies, balked at government proposals to raise the value-added tax rate, slow the indexation of pensions and introduce enrollment fees at universities. The measures are part of an austerity package that is supposed to reduce the country’s deficit to under 3 percent of gross domestic product as is required by European fiscal treaty.

The collapse of the ruling coalition would throw the austerity plans in disarray as the opposition Social Democrats, who hold a nearly 20 percentage point lead in the polls, have vowed to repeal deep spending cuts.

If elections were held today, Prime Minister Petr Nečas’ conservative Civic Democratic Party would place third with 17 percent of the vote, behind the far left. Public Affairs would not win any seats.

Nečas had proposed to call a vote of confidence in parliament on Friday to test the support for his cabinet. If Peake is able to deliver the ten votes, the prime minister will seek to sign a new coalition agreement with her group.

The libertarian and pro-European TOP 09 party, led by Prince Karel Schwarzenberg, the foreign minister, is expected to enter a right-wing coalition again.