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Czech Government Collapses After Losing No-Confidence Vote

By Stefan Bos, VOA, Budapest

The Czech government has collapsed after losing a non-confidence vote in parliament late Tuesday. The vote came after the center right government of Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek was criticized for the way it handled the economic crisis and for supporting a controversial American anti-missile defense system.

The lower house of the Czech Parliament voted 101 to 96 to declare no confidence in the coalition government of Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, after four lawmakers broke rank with their parties and voted with the opposition. Three legislators were absent from the vote.

It is the first time a government is ousted since the country came to existence, after the breakup of the former Czechoslovakia in 1993.

The vote was seen as a major setback for Mr. Topolanek as it came just days before a planned visit by United States President Barack Obama and midway through the rotation of the Czech Republic's European Union presidency.

Prime Minister Topolanek told reporters that he could resign Thursday, after talks with European Union officials.

He says he flies to Strasbourg on Wednesday, and after the trip he will hand in his resignation to President Vaclav Klaus according to the constitution. He admits that the new situation, in his words, "can complicate the Czech government's negotiating strength in the EU." Yet, he says, he is convinced that the Czech Republic can cope with these difficulties.

Prime Minister Topolanek said he believes the president might ask him again to form a government, as his party won most votes in the 2006 elections.

However he made clear he prefers holding elections early, rather than in June 2010 as scheduled.

In a first reaction the EU's executive branch, the European Commission, said it was confident the Czech Republic could continue to "effectively preside over the European Union" despite the government losing a no-confidence vote in Prague

Tuesday's vote of no confidence came after the opposition said the government came to late with a stimulus package of over three billion dollars to boost the ailing economy of this Eastern European nation.

The Czech Republic is among several former communist countries in Europe that suffer under the weight of the global financial crisis.

In addition the prime minister has been criticized for supporting a controversial anti-missile defense system that the United States considers building in the Czech Republic and Poland.

Washington says the system is aimed at undermining missile strikes from countries such as Iran and North Korea. Yet, the Czech opposition fears it will further destabilize Europe.

... Payvand News - 03/25/09 ... --

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