Topolanek says parties near deal on ‘cabinet of experts’

Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, ousted in a no-confidence vote last week, said his government would step down before the end of the June, leaving technocracts to manage the end of the EU presidency.


REUTERS - Ousted Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek said on Tuesday his government would step down before the end of the country's EU presidency in June and technocracts would take over.


"So far we know the cabinet will leave earlier than at the end of June, we are still discussing the date," Topolanek said after talks between his three-party coalition and the opposition Social Democrats.


"The (new) government must manage the completion of the Czech presidency, which determines the type of people we are looking for," he said.


The Czech Republic has been in political turmoil since a no-confidence vote last week toppled the minority government.


Its collapse has undermined the republic's position as the holder of the EU presidency, strengthened the role of eurosceptic President Vaclav Klaus, and raised doubts about ratification of the EU's Lisbon treaty.


Topolanek said the parties agreed on Tuesday to an opposition demand for a new government of non-politicians to lead the country.


"In the name of reaching wide political consensus we are ready for the creation of a cabinet of non-partisans, with the support of all democratic parties," he said.


Social Democrat chief Jiri Paroubek said the parties had moved closer to a final agreement.


Chief Martin Bursik of a junior coalition party, the Greens, said there was an agreement that most likely election date was Oct. 16-17.


The Czech political crisis is the result of personal rivalries and defections from the government camp over the past months and has less to do with the global financial crisis that felled governments in Hungary and Latvia.


The country has seen a drop of more than a fifth in industrial output and exports, but its banks have been stable and the currency recovered from losses earlier this year, thanks to low overall debt and low exposure to foreign credit.


The crown currency firmed after news of the nearing an agreement came out, and traded at 27.300 to the euro in late domestic trading from 27.460 ahead of the news.


Showing a willingness to cooperate, the Social Democrats and the coalition led by Topolanek's right-wing Civic Democrats gave preliminary approval in parliament to opposition-sponsored measures to help ease the impact of the global crisis.


None of the politicians involved in the government talks were willing to reveal any names under consideration for the prime minister or other cabinet members.


A failure of the main parties to reach agreement on a new government now would open the room for President Klaus to appoint a prime minister of his choice who could block the approval of the EU's Lisbon treaty, which is meant to streamline decision-making in the bloc.

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