Czech President Vaclav Klaus has asked the right-wing opposition to begin talks to form a new government after they won a general election at the weekend.
While Mirek Topolanek’s conservatives got the biggest share of the vote, they failed to win a majority in parliament, forcing them into a coalition, possibly with the Greens and the Christian Democrats. Together, they would still only hold half of the lower house’s 200 seats – the rest would be in the hands of the ruling Social Democrats and the Communists. Any solution is likely to produce a weak government, with the possibility of a German-style “grand coalition” being an unlikely outcome given the tension between Topolanek and his rival, incumbent Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek. He has announced he wants to lead his Social Democrats into opposition and is expected to keep any conservative-led cabinet on a tight leash, making bold reforms unlikely. Paroubek’s refusal to acknowledge his party’s defeat on Sunday sparked demonstrations in the capital Prague. People took to the streets, calling him a dictator and comparing him to Belarussian president Alexander Lukashenko.