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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Fractious Czechs Finally Ink Minority Government Pact

PRAGUE -- Czech government parties signed a new coalition agreement Thursday after almost a month of sometimes acrimonious negotiations, opening the way for a minority administration following inconclusive elections.

"I believe that on the basis of this coalition agreement we will be able to proceed in the next months and years," said Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus as he toasted his junior coalition partners with champagne.

But the signing ceremony at a Prague villa was delayed for more than an hour by the late arrival of Klaus, eastern Europe's sole remaining conservative premier, in a possible indication of the problems he still faces in forming a lasting government.

It was not clear what caused the delay. But the Czech news agency CTK reported that Klaus had earlier held talks with opposition Social Democrat leader Milos Zeman following a row over the division of key posts in parliament.

Strong Social Democratic gains in the polls on May 31 and June 1 robbed Klaus's three-party coalition of its majority. Under an outline agreement brokered by President Vaclav Havel, the center-left Social Democrats are supposed to support a minority Klaus administration in return for top parliamentary posts, including the chairmanship.

But many of the details have yet to be worked out and analysts doubt that the arrangement will last for a full four-year parliamentary term. Early elections are likely as soon as the center-right coalition or the Social Democrats feel they could win an outright majority.

But at the ceremony, the leader of the coalition's smallest party spoke optimistically of continuing the economic reforms which the outgoing government pushed through.

"I am persuaded that the development of this country, to a large extent, depends on what we just signed," said Jan Kalvoda, chairman of the Civic Democratic Alliance. "I think it is a solid basis for good future development."