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Europe

Rival Czech parties agree on new caretaker government

Rival Czech leaders have agreed on a new caretaker premier, Czech Statistics Office chief Jan Fischer, whose interim government would complete the country's presidency of the EU, reports said, citing official sources.

Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek

Outgoing Czech PM Topolanek's days are numbered

Ten days after Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek's center-right cabinet resigned, the leaders of the main Czech politial parties have agreed to form a caretaker government led by Jan Fischer. The party leaders also agreed to hold early elections before October 15, the CTK news agency reported. Topolanek's government was forced to step down after losing a no-confidence vote on March 24.

"We want this news to give reassurance to the public that we will have a stable government until an early election," Topolanek told a news conference after talks with other political parties in a bid to restore confidence in the political process after personal rivalries and defections from the government brought his tenure to an end.

He said the government's duties would be to complete the Czech Republic's European Union presidency, prepare the 2010 budget and help push through measures against the economic downturn.

Fischer's cabinet is expected to take over from Topolanek on May 9. The Czech EU presidency ends on June 30.

Decision reached over party lines

The deal was forged by leaders of four of the five parties in parliament's lower house, excluding the opposition Communists, whose participation in government has been a taboo since communism fell in then-Czechoslovakia in 1989.

The dealmakers included chiefs of the two main rival parties -- Topolanek and opposition Social Democratic leader Jiri Paroubek, as well as the leaders of Topolanek's junior coalition partners, the Christian Democrats and the Greens.

The agreement is subject to approval by leaderships of the three parties in Topolanek's center-right coalition and the leftist opposition Social Democrats, which is expected in the coming days.

The Social Democrats said they were happy with the choice of the 58-year-old Fischer.

"This is a consensual proposal, Mr. Fischer is a very experienced civil servant," Social Democrat chief Paroubek said, adding none of the outgoing ministers would keep their posts, a move confirmed by the Pravo daily in its online edition.

If endorsed by wider party leaderships, the interim government decision would move to President Vaclav Klaus, who has the right to appoint the next premier.

President must give final approval

Czech President Vaclav Klaus

President Klaus has the final say on the new leader

Klaus said that he would designate whoever secures an absolute majority of 101 votes in the 200-seat lower house, a condition that required cooperation between bitter foes Topolanek and Paroubek. Analysts say that fear of the president's intervention united the two opponents.

Czech lawmakers can force snap polls without the president if at least 120 of members pass a bill cutting short their four-year term.

Fischer, who would be a newcomer to the world of top-level politics, following a statistics career mostly in public sector and academia, will accept the nomination if Klaus agrees, his spokesman said.

If Fischer is confirmed in office it would end speculation among some analysts that Klaus might appoint a Eurosceptic cabinet that could halt ratification of the EU's Lisbon treaty, meant to streamline decision-making in the 27-member bloc.

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