Jan Macháček

Hledání

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Czech Business Weekly

Few pluses to the never-ending story

04. 12. 2006
One positive trait among economists is that they evaluate everything according to pros and cons, business assets and liabilities.

It can also be revealing to apply this analytical method to formed or, in our case, unformed governments. After some effort, I have managed to find only one small pro within this never-ending state of governmentlessness. The lone undeniable asset that our gridlock yields is more legislative stability.

On the other hand, the liabilities that multiply out of our stalemate increase daily.

Take fiscal policy. Our budget is in a crisis from the exponential rise in mandatory expenditures such as welfare or health insurance, while many other expenditures – which make sense for the nation’s sound future, such as money for schools and infrastructure – are falling in real terms. Our failure to fulfill the necessary criteria for euro convergence is another imp rising out of the cloud of political impasse.

We’ve also demonstrated our unreliability as partners for European institutions such as the EC, European Investment Bank, EBRD, OECD and the World Bank. How can we be reliable partners with them if we can’t form a government so as to be reliable partners with ourselves? Nor is a country without a government a solid partner for investors, entrepreneurs or business.

It makes sense that the two biggest parties – the Civic Democrats (ODS) and Social Democrats (ČSSD) – must compromise to form a basis for cooperation. Their collective number of seats needs no support from smaller parties – although, from an ODS perspective, the Christian Democrats (KDU-ČSL) are welcome since a three-party coalition could remove the unpleasant sound of the words “grand coalition,” and the ODS would appear to have kept its promise that it wouldn’t even consider forming a grand coalition with the ČSSD.

The KDU-ČSL also has a clear advantage in joining. The party’s very existence is seriously threatened these days and the last thing it wants is early elections.

The Greens (SZ) are also seriously interested in joining a pan-democratic-party government that excludes the Communists (KSČM). It’s really hard to understand this party’s motivation. If the Greens stay in the opposition, and operate as the only democratic opposition party, they would only profit from it. If they join the government, the Greens won’t be a significant part of it and will have little or no chance of instituting any of the important planks from their political platform.

President Václav Klaus is doing everything he can to push his native ODS to form a grand coalition. Last Monday he was supposed to talk to Mirek Topolánek at the Castle, but he canceled the meeting because Topolánek had made no progress. On Tuesday, he unexpectedly met with ČSSD leader Jiří Paroubek. What could possibly have been Klaus’ motivation?

In June, July and August, it was mainly the ČSSD who gave a poor-loser impression with their constant obstructions. In the last couple of weeks, the ČSSD is offering a lot of reasonable steps to meet the ODS halfway. The message from father Klaus to boy Topolánek is clear: “You better start behaving; look at how nice uncle Paroubek behaves and how hard he tries.” An interesting question to consider is: What is Klaus’ position and authority within his own party, and how powerful is he still? Those who know the answer might also know when our political stalemate will finally come to an end.

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