First we had Germany, where negotiations for the Grand Coalition went on for weeks; then there was Italy, where despite the much-vaunted dissatisfaction with Berlusconi, his policies and financial affairs, the Left under Romano Prodi barely managed to scrape through and have spent some time trying to put together a government; now we have the Czech Republic.
The elections that took place on Friday and Saturday have ended if not precisely in a draw but in a somewhat difficult situation. The right-wing Civic Democratic Party (ODS), Vaclav Klaus’s party, won but only just. They got 35.3 per cent of the vote as against the Social Democrats’ 32.32 per cent. This will give them 81 seats and the Social Democrats 74.
Any government would have to be a coalition and the ODS’s preferred partners would be the Christian Democrats and the Greens, who, with 6.75 per cent of the vote will now enter parliament, the first green party to do so in any post-communist party.
So is Mirek Topolánek beginning those tortuous negotiations? Well, in order to do so, he must have his opponent, the still sitting Prime Minister, Jiri Paroubek, who has been accused of holding up investigations into criminal gang activity, acknowledge defeat.
Mr Paroubek has preferred to throw his toys out of the pram.
“If you think that I’m just going to admit defeat and shake the hand of my opponent, think again.”He has threatened to go the Supreme Court to ask for a recount and has, rather oddly, compared the ODS campaign and victory with the 1948 Communist coup. Then he added that he could form a government with the communists in any case and the ODS need not bother.
In return, he was attacked by President Klaus who, quite understandably, said that he will not allow Mr Paroubek ignore the results of a free and fair election and by the leader of the Green Party who has likened the stubborn statement to 1950s communist rhetoric.