. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Czech Premier Seeks to Keep Power

PRAGUE -- Czech Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus launched a battle for his political life Monday, vowing to hold onto power after weekend elections stripped him of his parliamentary majority.


In an interview with the pro-government Telegraf newspaper, Klaus suggested that a minority regrouping of his coalition, the last conservative government in eastern Europe, was probably the only option left for the country.


"I don't see a lot of further possibilities ... We must begin to work intensively on this," he told Telegraf.


Official results Monday confirmed what computer projections had forecast: Klaus' coalition won only 99 seats in the new 200-member parliament, down from 112.


Klaus said no mainstream parties would want to deal with the little-reformed communists or far-right Republicans which together won 40 seats in the elections Friday and Saturday.


The jockeying was between Klaus' Civic Democratic Party, or ODS, his two junior coalition partners and the Social Democrats who surprised analysts by winning 61 seats.


President Vaclav Havel, the man who negotiated the capitulation of communism in the country's 1989 "Velvet Revolution," stepped back into the political fray.


He has summoned Klaus, Social Democrat chairman Milos Zeman and the leaders of the two junior coalition partners, the Christian Democrats and the center-right Civic Democratic Alliance, to separate talks in his offices at Prague's medieval castle Monday.


Official results showed that Klaus' ODS emerged strongest with 68 seats. But Klaus's three-party coalition was undermined by an unexpectedly strong vote for the Social Democrats under economist Milos Zeman.


Klaus faces a tough struggle to harness support quickly and maintain his country's overseas image of stability.


"All political figures in this country are looking for a way out of the current situation, and not only myself and the president," he said. "We tried to look at different solutions and I believe that some model which will allow stability and continuation in the current direction will be found."


The election outcome confirmed Klaus' expressed fears Saturday as early results came in.


"The worst scenario is no result and the necessity to find some special solutions or to make new elections," he said in an interview.


In his four years in power, Klaus pushed ahead with a mass privatization policy while slashing inflation and keeping the unemployment rate at only 3 percent.


But many more reforms, held back pending the elections, may go on hold at least unless a strong government emerges.


While other Eastern European countries, bowed by economic hardship, have swept conservative administrations aside in favor of leftists, investors had seen the Czech Republic as an exception. Nonetheless, the Social Democrats are not seen as a rebirth of the old communist spirit, and declare commitment to market reforms.


"If ... either side is unable to form a government that's going to be able to stay in power, there will inevitably be some nerves because you could get a period in which there aren't any clear policies," said Andrew Kenningham, an economist with Merrill Lynch in London.


But he added, "There aren't really any serious doubts about the long run of the Czech Republic."