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Czech Parliament Debates Government Policy Prior to Confidence Vote

Prague, July 24 (RFE/RL) - The Czech Parliament continued its debate on the new center-right government's policy declaration today as the Social Democratic opposition delayed deciding on how to vote until after the debate ends.

Several leading Social Democratic deputies said the government policy statement, though vague, is acceptable as it contains entire sections borrowed from the Social Democrats's campaign platform.

They say the elements of the program they oppose, such as the introduction of university tuition and individual participation in financing health care, can be opposed in subsequent parliamentary debates rather than by voting no confidence in the government.

Milos Zeman, Social Democrat chairman and parliamentary speaker, said the policy statement contains positive and negative elements. He told lawmakers they should vote according to their consciences rather than by party edict.

Zeman repeated his party's opposition to two cabinet members (Interior Ministr Jan Ruml and Social and Labor Minister Jindrich Vodicka), saying their continued presence in the new cabinet is sufficient reason to vote no confidence in the government.

But then he asked rhetorically, "What then?"

Zeman appealed for unity of the government coalition and the opposition in supporting the post-1989 transformation of Czech society.