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Klaus Wins Confidence Vote Boycotted by Social Democrats

Prague, July 25 (RFE/RL) -- The Czech parliament gave Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus' new center-right government a vote of confidence today following an acrimonious three-day debate.

But all deputies of the main opposition party, the Social Democrats (CSSD), boycotted the vote in the 200-seat chamber, making the vote of confidence considerably less than an expression of full support.

The official tally was 98 in favor and 40 opposed with no abstentions. A simple majority, 70 out of the 138 present in the chamber, was required for the vote to pass.

Stanislav Gross, faction leader of the Social Democrats, told deputies just prior to the vote that it is willing to "tolerate" this government for the time being. But he added that the Klaus government does not have the trust of the Social Democrats.

In opening the debate two days ago, President Vaclav Havel appealed to the deputies to support the government and its program. But in an interview with the Prague daily "Lidove noviny" last week, Havel warned that a boycott of the vote would be "neither a good start nor a firm foundation" for the new government.

Milan Uhde, faction leader of Klaus' Civic Democratic Party (ODS), told deputies that if the government lost today's vote his party would not vote confidence in any replacement government.

Klaus told parliament the ruling coalition is ready to cooperate with all political forces interested in continuing the transformation begun after the collapse of Communist rule in 1989 to assure the implementation of government policies.

Milos Zeman, Social Democratic leader and parliamentary chairman, appealed yesterday for unity in defending goals of the post-1989 transformation.

But in a reference to remarks by several Social Democratic members that large parts of the government's policy declaration were borrowed from their (Social Democratic) election campaign platform, Klaus said the government program does not represent a reversal by the ruling coalition toward social democracy.

The debate was marked by a tirade of abuse and criticism of Klaus, his government and its program from all three opposition parties, particularly the ultra-rightwing Republicans, whose delaying tactics ensured the debate continued into a third day.