Prague - Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek's government faced a parliamentary confidence motion Wednesday, just as the Czech Republic prepares to take over the EU presidency in January.
The left-leaning opposition sought the vote on ousting the government after Topolanek's Civic Democrats, in power since January 2007, were weakened by a defeat in regional elections Saturday.
Political tension in the Central European nation is running high over the government's 2009 budget and before Senate run-off elections starting Friday that could bring more losses for the premier.
In the confidence vote expected later Wednesday, the main opposition Social Democrats needed 101 votes in the 200-seat lower house to topple Topolanek's governing coalition.
With 96 votes seen as certain, the Social Democrats were hoping for support from rebellious coalition lawmakers and independents who have backed Topolanek in the past.
Three previous parliamentary motions to oust the government have failed and analysts doubted that the latest attempt would succeed.
"I think the government will make it," said political scientist Jiri Pehe, the head of Prague's branch of New York University. "But it will be so weakened that it will be a walking corpse."
Opposition lawmakers and cabinet ministers clashed in parliament Wednesday over issues including the government's response to the global financial crisis and foreign policy.
Social Democratic leader Jiri Paroubek slammed the government for agreeing to host a US missile-shield radar on Czech soil and its eurosceptic policies.
"(The government) takes the Czech Republic into international isolation in Europe, which raises valid doubts about its abilities to lead the country during the EU presidency," he said.
Topolanek, one of eastern Europe's leading US allies and EU critics, countered that he had "the only cabinet that is capable of preventing chaos for the rest of the term."
The Czech Republic, the richest country from the former Soviet bloc, is scheduled to take over the EU's six-month presidency on January 1.
The government's tight majority in parliament's lower house was already impaired Tuesday.
Three rebellious coalition lawmakers, elected for Topolanek's party, then helped the opposition to stall the country's 2009 budget.
The voting resulted in an unprecedented stalemate as the lower house neither passed budget's spending limits and anticipated revenues nor asked the cabinet to rework them.
Amid high tensions on Wednesday, the lower house finally sent the government proposal to the next approval phase.
Regardless of the no-confidence vote's result, Topolanek's position as a leader of his party is shaky. Opponents within his party, led by Prague mayor Pavel Bem, may challenge him for the post at a party congress in December. (dpa)
- Essar Oil to sign $1 billion financing co-operation deal with CDB
- ONGC may sell stakes in deep-water blocks to Shell
- Huge scope for improving Indian shale gas estimates: ONGC
- HPCL Visakha refinery suffers major fire due to short circuit
- No refills for multiple cooking gas connection holders from June 1