August 15, 2006

Czech PM says to resign

By Jan Korselt

PRAGUE (Reuters) - Czech leftist Prime Minister Jiri
Paroubek said on Tuesday he would resign on Wednesday and
proposed his rightist rivals form a minority government for two
years before holding an early election.

Paroubek told reporters the government would officially
resign at a regular weekly meeting on Wednesday now that a new
speaker of the lower house had been elected more than 10 weeks
after an inconclusive election left parliament paralyzed.

He added he was pushing a proposal that would see the Civic
Democrats, who won the most votes in the election, but not a
majority, form a minority government in exchange for the Social
Democrats getting key parliamentary positions.

"I am concentrating on an agreement in which they (the
Civic Democrats) would hold positions in the government, and we
(the Social Democrats) would control positions in the lower
house," Paroubek said.

Parliament had been deadlocked since a June 2-3 election
that gave the right and left-wing blocs the same number of
seats -- 100 -- in the lower house.

"I am giving priority to the option that some sort of
framework be set to halve the election period, that means to
two years. I think this would be reasonable given the election
result which was basically a draw," he added.

On Monday, Social Democrat Miloslav Vlcek was voted in as
the new speaker, breaking the impasse since the outgoing
government could not resign until a new leadership was elected
in the lower house.

Paroubek's resignation enables President Vaclav Klaus to
appoint a new prime minister, probably right-wing leader Mirek
Topolanek. Once Topolanek and his government are officially
named, they have 30 days to win a confidence vote.

However, Topolanek has yet to find majority support for his
planned minority cabinet, and admitted on Monday that "there's
still a lot of work to be done."

He has been holding intense talks with Paroubek, whose
Social Democrats were second in the election, to find a deal
that would allow his government to win a confidence vote, but
has said any deal must also be approved by two other parties in
parliament, the centrist Christian Democrats and the Greens.

If Topolanek's government fails, the president nominates
another prime minister.

A third attempt is based on the nomination by the house
speaker, and if that fails, early elections may be called.

Parliament could also approve a one-time constitutional
amendment that would shorten the election period and allow a
vote to take place before the next scheduled election in 2010.