Jak se zrodila opoziční smlouva. Analýza vzniku jednoho z nejkontroverznějších paktů české politiky
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The Birth of the ‘Opposition Agreement’: An Analysis of the Origin of One of the Most Controversial Pacts in Czech Politics
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The so-called ‘opposition agreement’, signed in July 1998 between the Civic Democratic Party led by Václav Klaus and the Czech Social Democratic Party led by Miloš Zeman, has been among the most problematic and contentious factors in Czech politics since the end of the Communist régime in late 1989. The signing of the agreement enabled the emergence of a minority Social Democratic government with a guarantee of support from the main opposition party, and created a very unusual political arrangement. In this article the author first recapitulates the main political events in the Czech Republic from the collapse of Klaus’s coalition government in late 1997, as a result of a scandal concerning Civic Democratic Party funding, to early general elections in June 1998. He then analyzes the post-election negotiations amongst the political parties, which resulted in the signing of the opposition agreement. He pays particular attention to the main factors influencing the talks, considers the role of President Václav Havel, and analyzes possible alternatives to the agreement. He regards as completely unrealistic the formation of the centre-right coalition of the Civic Democratic Party, the Christian Democratic Union–Czechoslovak Populist Party, and the Freedom Union; this coalition was the subject of much speculation. He also explains why the two other variants under consideration – namely, a government of Social Democrats, Populist Party members, and Freedom Union members and a minority government of Social Democrats and Populist Party members with the support of the Freedom Union – turned out during the talks to be unworkable. The negotiating strategy of the two minority parties, in the author’s view, was negatively influenced by underestimating the possibility of an agreement between the Civic Democrats and the Social Democrats and excessive reliance on interventions by President Havel, and the lack of unity of the Freedom Union and the wavering of its leaders.
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