Czech Premier Topolanek defiant after regional election fiasco

Other News Materials 19 October 2008 20:36 (UTC +04:00)

Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek appeared defiant Sunday, a day after his party lost its dominance to the opposition in regional elections, dpa reported.

Voters on Saturday toppled Topolanek's Civic Democratic Party in all 13 regions where voting took place to the Social Democrats. Elections in Prague, officially the 14th region, take place separately.

Topolanek said he plans to defend his post as head of the senior ruling Civil Democratic Party leader at a congress scheduled for December.

"Beware! If anyone really longs after the presidency, I warn him," he said on Czech Television.

The political developments come 10 weeks before the Czech Republic is due to take up the six-month rotating European Union presidency.

Topolanek also expressed confidence that his center-right coalition government will survive a vote of no confidence planned for Wednesday.

"I am not succumbing to despair. The slap came at the right time," Topolanek said.

The Civic Democratric Party's public finance measures such as direct fees and health care had made it unpopular among voters. The Social Democrats had pledge it would cover the fees at regional hospitals.

Party leader Jiri Paroubek called on Topolanek to step down following his defeat.

"This government is neither capable of ruling this country nor of doing reasonable work for the Czech Republic in the European Union," he told the broadcaster.

Paroubek hopes to oust Topolanek's cabinet Wednesday with help of rebellious coalition lawmakers and opposition defectors, now government-supporting independents. Analysts, however, say his chances are slim.

Topolanek wished to downplay his party's heavy losses in the Senate election, that is to conclude with a runoff on Friday and Saturday. Twenty Civic Democratic Party candidates have made it to the second round, 19 of whom will face Social Democratic rivals.

The premier's party needs to defend nine seats to retain its current absolute majority of 41 senators in parliament's 81-member upper house.

"I can't imagine anyone who would knock down his own government before election," Topolanek said, referring to a Senate election runoff.