Swing to left leaves Klaus on knife edge looking weak

Czech election: Havel pushed to fore as right loses majority

President Vaclav Havel was yesterday propelled to the forefront of Czech politics after the country's ruling centre-right coalition, headed by the Prime Minister, Vaclav Klaus, appeared to have lost its parliamentary majority in a general election.

With projections based on final results indicating a political stalemate, the President, who has task of charging a political leader with forming a new government, looked as if he would become a key player in the delicate negotiations ahead.

Most analysts believed his first choice would be Mr Klaus, the leader of the conservative Civic Democratic Party (ODS), which, despite an undoubted setback, emerged as the largest single party with just under 30 per cent of the vote.

But there were fears that, with Mr Klaus's three-party coalition expected to win only 99 of the 200 parliamentary seats, two short of an overall majority, the country could be heading for a period of political instability.

"It is undoubtedly a very fragile situation," said Jaroslav Veis, a commentator for Tydenik weekly news magazine. "Mr Havel could have a very important role as moderator."

Many Czechs were caught off guard by the election results, which, although not an outright defeat, represented a slap in the face for Mr Klaus and a less- than-wholehearted endorsement of his programme of rapid economic reform.

But unlike other Central and Eastern European countries, where reformed Communists have come back to power in their droves, the Czech protest was more modest. Mr Klaus's ODS remained the largest party and, rather than former Communists, the main winners in the poll were the Social Democrats, a centre-left party whose leader, Milos Zeman, likes to think of himself as the Czech Republic's answer to Tony Blair.

According to projections, the Social Democrats won more than 26 per cent of the vote, while Mr Klaus's coalition partners, the Christian Democrats and Civic Democratic Alliance (ODA), won just over 8 and 6 per cent respectively. The only other parties to pass the 5 per cent hurdle were the Communists with 10 per cent, and the extreme-right Republicans with 8 per cent.

A clearly disappointed Mr Klaus acknowledged that the decisive victory he had hoped for had not occurred. But he emphasised that his party's showing, more or less identical with its result in the last election in 1992, was "unique in the post-Communist world".

Under Mr Klaus's leadership, the Czech Republic became one of the economic success stories of the former Communist bloc, with high annual growth rates, low unemployment and, particularly in Prague, unprecedented prosperity.

But not all Czechs felt they gained from the changes, and the Social Democrat vote evinced a desire to slow the pace towards free markets, and more concern for those left behind.

A jubilant Mr Zeman, who once declared that under Mr Klaus "Communist nonsense has been replaced by Thatcherite nonsense", yesterday claimed moral victory and began touting for coalition partners. Having ruled out an alliance with unreconstructed Communists or xenophobic Republicans, Mr Zeman could achieve a parliamentary majority only with the support of Mr Klaus's ODS, a possibility both men have ruled out.

With political deadlock staring the country in the face and fears of possible repercussions on further reforms, all eyes were turned to Prague's castle, the official seat of Mr Havel.

Although his role is largely ceremonial, President Havel has established himself over the past six years as the guardian of the Czech conscience and a figure of immense moral authority.

He has spoken out against the excesses of materialism and of the need to cultivate higher moral and civil values, much to the annoyance of Mr Klaus, with whom the President has never enjoyed an easy relationship.

As the man who negotiated the peaceful transfer of power from Communism in Czechoslovakia's "Velvet Revolution" of 1989, Mr Havel's political skills have already been proved. But they are likely to be tested over the coming weeks. If no workable solution emerges, the most likely outcome will be fresh elections.

News
newsGlobal index has ranked the quality of life for OAPs - but the UK didn't even make it into the top 10
News
people

Kirstie Allsopp has waded into the female fertility debate again

Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
people
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
News
Gillian Anderson was paid less than her male co-star David Duchovny for three years while she was in the The X-Files until she protested and was given the same salary
people

Gillian Anderson lays into gender disparity in Hollywood

Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Arts and Entertainment
Swiss guards stand in the Sistine Chapel, which is to be lit, and protected, by 7,000 LEDs
art

The Sistine Chapel is set to be illuminated with thousands of LEDs

Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsA Welsh town has changed its name - and a prize if you can notice how
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Sport
Ronaldinho signs the t-shirt of a pitch invader
footballProof they are getting bolder
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped Commission, 1st yr OTE £30-£40k : SThree:...

Middleware Support Analyst

£45000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Senior Java Developer/Designer

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: My client are looking fo...

Domino Developer and Administrator

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum + benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Domino ...

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?