Stanislav Gross's luxury apartment; no end to the story.

Wed 6 Apr 2005

The Czech prime minister, Stanislav Gross, has survived a vote of no confidence called by the opposition Civic Democrats. But the story has not ended yet.

The Czech Republic entered a political crisis last month after the Christian Democrat Party (KDU-CSL), one of the three parties in the governing coalition, called for the replacement of Prime Minister Stanislav Gross amid a scandal over the financing of Gross’s luxury apartment. Three KDU-CSL ministers in the government withdrew from government on Wednesday 30 March leaving the Social Democrats (CSSD) and its remaining partner in government, the Freedom Union (US-DEU), without a parliamentary majority.

On Friday 1 April, the parliament issued a no confidence vote in the remaining minority government. The largely unreconstructed Communist Party (KSCM) - a successor organization to the totalitarian party that ruled Czechoslovakia from 1948 to 1989 - abstained from the vote, thus depriving the opposition of sufficient votes to topple the government. The cabinet won less than half of the votes, but survived thanks to the communist abstention. Friday’s vote is a landmark event in modern Czech history because it marks the first time the Communist Party has wielded real political power, albeit passively, since the Velvet Revolution in 1989.

Even after the vote, the story keeps continuing. On Saturday 2 April, the information minister also resigned from government. Vladimir Mlynar of the US-DEU explained he could not remain in a government whose existence was ensured by the Communists. His party still views the government’s resignation as the only possible solution to the crisis. The US-DEU did however ask the president to give the assurance that if Prime Minister Stanislav Gross’s cabinet fell, he would again entrust a member of the CSSD with the forming of a new cabinet. The President Vaclav Klaus announced that he was prepared to do so, but at the time of writing what will happen is still uncertain.