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Centre-right Czech parties seek alliance

Czech centre-right parties began talks on forming an austerity-minded coalition government yesterday, after their surprisingly decisive election victory over leftists who advocate higher welfare spending.

Three centre-right parties, led by the Civic Democrats under their new leader Petr Necas, won 118 seats in the 200-seat lower house in Saturday's parliamentary vote, defying expectations of a tight result.

The right has promised to push through austerity measures to avert the risk of a Greek-style debt crisis; the Czech Republic's debt, which totals 35 per cent of gross domestic product, is less than a third that of fellow EU-member Greece. But economists say the debt burden will rise quickly without budget reforms.

Following Saturday's election, Necas met the heads of both possible coalition partners – the conservative party known as TOP09 and the centrist Public Affairs – to discuss forming a coalition.

President Vaclav Klaus, who appoints the Prime Minister, invited all the party leaders for meetings today. Traditionally the President asks the leader of the biggest party to lead talks on building a cabinet. This would mean that the leftist Social Democrats could have the first shot, although they stand little chance of forming a coalition. But Klaus may also go straight to Mr Necas. AP