Czech MPs dissolve parliament, paving way for snap polls
Czech lawmakers voted to dissolve parliament on Tuesday, triggering early elections that could put an end to months of political turmoil over a spy and bribery scandal.
A total of 140 lawmakers backed the proposal tabled by three major parties which needed a majority of 120 votes in the 200-seat parliament to succeed.
The Czech Republic has been mired in political crisis since former prime minister Petr Necas stepped down over the bribery scandal in June involving his top aide and lover.
President Milos Zeman named a new government to fill the void but its technocrat cabinet lost a confidence vote earlier this month.
Under the constitution, Zeman must now formally approve the dissolution and set an election date to follow within 60 days.
He said last week if needed he would schedule early elections for October 25-26. The next regular election had been scheduled for May 2014.
The three parties that backed dissolving parliament were the far-left Communists, the right-wing TOP 09 and the left-wing Social Democrats -- who polls show would easily win the snap vote.
"An early election held without delay will be advantageous for left-wing parties, because many voters have not yet forgotten their strong disillusionment with the Necas government," independent analyst Jiri Pehe told AFP.
Social Democrat chairman Bohuslav Sobotka, likely the next prime minister, hailed the outcome as "a clear decision that everyone should respect."
"We are giving citizens room to decide about the future of the Czech Republic," he said.
Necas's centre-right government, which took office after the last elections in 2010, fell after his lover and chief-of-staff Jana Nagyova was charged with bribery and abuse of power.
Polls show that his right-wing Civic Democrats (ODS) -- the only top party not to have petitioned for the dissolution vote -- paid dearly for the scandal and also for its austerity policy.
The Czech Republic has just exited its longest recession ever, lasting 18 months.
A poll by the ppm factum agency on Monday showed that the Social Democrats would garner 21 percent of the vote in an early election, while TOP 09 would have 10 percent and the Communists nine percent.
The Civic Democrats would end up with a mere six percent, according to the August 12-16 poll of 1,002 respondents.
"The two largest parties on the right, TOP 09 and ODS, reckon they will probably lose the early vote," said Pehe.
"But the early election will be more advantageous for TOP 09, which could become the dominant power on the right, at the expense of the battered ODS."
After Necas fell, Zeman -- the first-ever directly elected Czech president and in office since March -- named a cabinet led by left-wing ally Jiri Rusnok.
Appointed in July, the cabinet lost a confidence vote in parliament on August 7.
Pehe said a minority government of the Social Democrats with parliamentary backing from the Communists was the most likely outcome of the snap election.
"This after all is a setup backed by President Zeman... and I can't see strong resistance to this solution among the Social Democrats," he said.
Such a setup would mean the Communists would end up on the governing side of parliament for the first time since 1990, a year after the collapse of communism in the former Czechoslovakia.
Czechoslovakia peacefully split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993.
Analysts say the recent political crisis has had little impact on the EU member's economy, which is heavily dependent on exports to the eurozone.
But the Czech central bank expects the country of 10.5 million people to post a 1.5-percent contraction this year.
Not yet a member of the eurozone, the Czech Republic is central Europe's third largest economy after Poland and Austria.