Czech coalition falls, but govt survives for now

The leaders of the three parties that form the Czech government have agreed to end their coalition, the Prime Minister said.

Prague: The leaders of the three parties that form the Czech government have agreed to end their coalition, the Prime Minister said on Sunday.

Petr Necas said the coalition`s existence should be terminated on Friday. But it doesn`t mean the government has collapsed since a new party may be formed that would replace Public Affairs, a junior coalition partner.

The announcement comes after Vit Barta, an informal chairman of the centrist Public Affairs, was convicted of paying bribes. Barta announced he would quit politics, but refused to resign his parliamentary seat, angering Necas.

A number of prominent members and lawmakers of Public Affairs led by deputy chairman Karolina Peake walked out earlier this week and are forming a new group that may replace the party in the government.

Necas, who leads the conservative Civic Democratic Party, made the brief announcement with the other two leaders Karel Schwarzenberg of the conservative TOP 09 party and Public Affairs chairman Radek John standing by his side. The leaders didn`t immediately comment on the decision.

Without Public Affairs, the government would lose its majority in the 200-seat lower house of Parliament.

At least seven other lawmakers have so far left to join Peake, who also serves as deputy prime minister. It would still not be enough to form a majority government without Public Affairs.

Necas said earlier this week he wanted to know by tomorrow if the government still has a majority, otherwise early elections should be called, possibly in June.

Public Affairs has three ministers in the government, but one resigned last month over a disagreement with the government over cuts and a new minister has yet to be appointed. The other two ministers have sided with Peake, leaving to join the new group.

Necas` coalition was sworn in on July 2010, and it has faced several crises since because of tensions between the two conservative parties and Public Affairs.

It has also been under fire from the opposition and labour unions for its reforms of pension and health care systems, as well other measures and austerity cuts it says are necessary to help bring the budget deficit back below 3 percent of GDP and maintain market reliability.

Tens of thousands of people rallied yesterday in Prague to protest government reforms and cuts in one of the biggest anti-government demonstrations here since the collapse of communism in 1989. Protesters from all over the country urged the government to abandon the cuts and resign, demands the government has refused to meet. The protesters also demanded early Parliamentary Elections.

Necas said yesterday that the leaders agreed their parties will vote in favour of the measures the government had already approved.