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Cablegate: Czech Politics: Topolanek Loses Vote Of

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RR RUEHAG RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN
RUEHLZ RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHPG #1253/01 2821223
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 091223Z OCT 06
FM AMEMBASSY PRAGUE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8071
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 PRAGUE 001253

SIPDIS

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

STATE FOR EUR/NCE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV EZ
SUBJECT: CZECH POLITICS: TOPOLANEK LOSES VOTE OF
CONFIDENCE; PRESIDENT APPEARS TO FAVOR TECHNOCRATIC
GOVERNMENT

REF: A. PRAGUE 1207
B. PRAGUE 1239

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. As expected, the Topolanek government
failed to win the vote of confidence and will formally resign
on October 11, although it will continue serving until a new
cabinet is named. President Klaus has said this will not
happen until after the Senate and municipal elections later
this month. The President is sending strong signals that he
prefers to appoint a technocratic government that would rule
until early elections next spring, although former PM
Paroubek continues to insist that he deserves a chance. The
next month is likely to produce numerous twists and turns,
both following election results and as a result of struggles
for leadership among ODS and the Christian Democrats.
Meanwhile, Parliament has essentially stopped working for a
month and the Czech public is increasingly fed up and losing
interest in national politics. END SUMMARY

2. (SBU) To the surprise of no one (Ref A), the Topolanek
government failed to win the vote of confidence on October 4,
four weeks after taking office and 17 weeks after
inconclusive general election. The vote was 96-99, with all
Social Democrat (CSSD) and Communist (KSCM) deputies voting
against (one CSSD deputy was in the hospital; in a
widely-appreciated sign of fair play, Topolanek himself left
the chamber during the vote to balance the ill deputy).
Topolanek's cabinet won the support of all ODS members, all
the Greens, and 10 of 13 Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL).
Three KDU-CSL deputies left the chamber, including former
KDU-CSL Chair Kalousek. Most post-vote discussion focused on
the motives of the KDU-CSL deputies, which is likely what
Kalousek had hoped. Speculation grew that Kalousek was
sending a sign that he and his fellow travelers were
available to split ranks with KDU-CSL and support a CSSD
minority government that would depend on KSCM -- exactly the
scenario that forced a revolt within KDU-CSL in August and
cost Kalousek his position as party leader (and lost the
party considerable public support). In the end Acting Party
Chair Jan Kasal got each of the 13 KDU-CSL deputies to sign a
statement pledging not to support or join a government that
relies on KSCM.

3. (SBU) Immediately following the failed vote, PM Topolanek
announced that his government would resign, as required by
the constitution. This will happen on October 11, following
the cabinet's weekly meeting. With that announcement, all
focus shifted to the President, who has the task of
appointing a new cabinet. Even before he returned to Prague
from an extended visit to Asia on October 5, Klaus had
announced that he would not appoint a new cabinet until after
the conclusion of the Senate and local elections (October
20-21, with the second round of Senate voting October 27-28).
Likewise, even before his return officials close to Klaus
(primarily his political advisor Ladislav Jakl) began making
noises about the need for a technocratic government and early
elections. Over the weekend Prague Mayor Pavel Bem (an ODS
vice chair and known confidant of Klaus) announced that if
Topolanek was again chosen by Klaus to form a government, it
would have a technocratic character and Topolanek himself
would not insist on becoming Prime Minister. The President's
efforts appear to be having success: even KSCM has announced
that it would be in favor of a "national unity government"
and early elections.

4. (SBU) There are two problems with this scenario. First,
it is not clear how Klaus proposes to get to early elections.
The simplest way is for three attempts to form a government
to fail. Topolanek's was the first. If the second attempt
fails, the Speaker of Parliament, not the President, gets to
select the prime minister. A vote to dissolve the current
parliament is possible but not certain since many deputies
can reasonably expect not to regain their seats. And that
leads to the second problem: CSSD is not yet on board.
Paroubek continue to insist that he can form a government and
should be given the chance (indeed, he insists that Klaus
promised him the second chance, something Klaus denies).

5. (SBU) Speculation is already rampant about who could lead
a technocratic government, with many reaching back to leaders
from the early 1990s. The press on October 9 focused on
former Czechoslovak PM Jan Stransky. Former Czech Minister
of Economy Vladimir Dlouhy has been mentioned. Other
candidates include well-respected regional leaders. The
governor of Northern Moravia, Evzen Tosenovsky, made a
surprise announcement last week that he would consider

PRAGUE 00001253 002 OF 002


running for ODS Chairman at the party's November Congress,
but only if Topolanek did not run (Tosenovsky has long said
he had no interest in national office); he subsequently
announced he would not be interested in serving in a limited
mandate government. Accepting that an ODS member would not
be suitable at the head of a technocratic government, some in
ODS have suggested the only non-ODS governor: Stanislav
Juranek of Southern Moravia.

6. (SBU) The coming weeks will see many names floated for
prime minister, and likewise much speculation about new
leadership in ODS and KDU-CSL (ODS's party congress is
November 14-17; KDU-CSL on December 9). Both are vulnerable
in the upcoming Senate and local elections. ODS is defending
ten of the 27 Senate seats being contested this round, as
well as many of the mayoral seats across the country; KDU-CSL
has seven Senate seats to defend (by contrast, CSSD has only
one). Topolanek is known to be losing support within his
party, and the defeat in the vote of confidence will not
help. At least one local party chapter has already called
for him to be replaced. However, most debate is going on
behind closed doors.

7. (SBU) Reaction to the collapse of the Topolanek government
and the prolongation of the political stalemate has been
muted. The economy remains untouched by the political
"crisis" (Ref B). Business leaders are not yet concerned by
the fact that the Parliament has done no work since June, and
will not do any before November (the Parliament has canceled
its October sessions to permit deputies to campaign for their
parties). Of greater concern to observers is the toll the
stalemate is taking on society. The Czech public seems to be
losing its interest in politics entirely: at a lunch on
October 5, editors of the main national dailies told us that
they are all anxious to find something other than political
news to run on their headlines as a way of boosting lagging
circulation. An early sign of political disaffection will be
the upcoming elections. While local elections tend to bring
out voters, the second round of the Senate election generally
sees turnout of less than 20%, and some fear that this year
it could be much lower. That raises concerns as well about
what could happen in new national elections next spring, as
low voter turnout will tend to favor disciplined parties like
KSCM.
GRABER

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