Junior party threatens to leave Czech government

Published April 3, 2012 8:27PM (EDT)

PRAGUE (AP) — The Czech three-party coalition government faced a possible collapse Tuesday after a junior party threatened to withdraw its ministers unless the prime minister meets its demands for a major government reshuffling.

Prime Minister Petr Necas said he would not submit to "blackmailing" and called the junior party's demands unconstructive. He also said an early parliamentary election would resolve the crisis if the government collapses.

Public Affairs party leader Radek John said Tuesday that the ministers would resign May 1 if Necas does not reshuffle the government, make changes to the coalition agreement and come up with a plan to eliminate ministries and government offices to save money.

John said the premier had until April 26 to make the changes, but Necas said it was not clear exactly what Public Affairs wanted. The prime minister said he would discuss the situation with the junior party but gave no timetable.

Necas said his conservative Civic Democratic Party will coordinate its steps with another coalition partner, the conservative TOP 09 party.

"If the situation leads to the government's collapse, an early election should be held as soon as possible," Necas said.

His three-party coalition was sworn in on July 2010 and has faced several crises since due to tensions among coalition partners over various issues.

TOP 09 deputy chairman, Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek, escalated the rhetoric, calling Public Affairs a "disgusting ... group of amateurs" and suggested in strong terms that some of them were corrupt. One of the Public Affairs party leaders is on trial on corruption charges.

Kalousek told Czech public radio his party was not ready to talk and that an early election would be "the most honest solution."

The government has been under fire from the opposition and labor unions for its reforms of pension and health care systems, as well other measures and cuts it says are necessary to keep the deficit low and maintain market reliability.

Public Affairs holds three ministries in the government and the post of a deputy prime minister, but one of its ministers resigned last month over his disagreement with the government cuts and a new one has not been appointed yet. Without the party, the government would lose its majority in parliament.

The Public Affairs ministers are expected to hand over conditional resignations on Wednesday.

Necas said in a statement late Tuesday that if that happens no room would remain for any further negotiations with the party.

By Salon Staff

MORE FROM Salon Staff

Related Topics ------------------------------------------