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Public Affairs MPs to meet today for headcount

Prague, April 17 (CTK) - Representatives of the Czech junior ruling Public Affairs (VV) will meet on Wednesday to ascertain the number of seats the VV has in parliament now that Deputy PM Karolina Peake and other rebels left the VV to establish a new political platform, Katerina Klasnova told CTK yesterday.

Klasnova, VV deputy chairwoman and deputy head of the lower house of parliament, said the VV will survive even after the departure of some of its members.

"The VV existed before Karolina Peake's entry and it will exist after her departure as well," Klasnova said.

She said she will remain a member of the party (VV) she was elected for in the mid-2010 polls.

"I don't plan to distance myself from the VV, I don't intend to join a platform of Karolina Peake," Klasnova said.

Klasnova is the wife of Vit Barta, the VV's unofficial leader who announced his resignation as VV deputies' group chairman and suspension of his party membership after being convicted of bribery on Friday. The verdict has not not yet taken effect.

Some observers recently spoke about tension between Barta's people in the VV, including VV chairman Radek John, and rebels around Peake, dissatisfied with the direction the party was heading in. Peake, VV deputy chairwoman, for some time considered challenging John as VV chairperson at the party's election conference later this spring.

Peake yesterday ended her membership of the VV and said she has established a new political platform. Transport Minister Pavel Dobes (VV) and several VV deputies followed suit.

If Peake wants her platform to replace the VV as a junior partner in the three-party centre-right government, she must win support of at least seven other VV deputies and persuade them to leave the VV.

Pavel Dobes, on return from a working trip to Albania and Macedonia, confirmed his departure from the VV. He told journalists that Karolina Peake is the only one to embody a chance for the VV members who would follow her.

"I'm leaving the VV yesterday and I unambiguously support her," Dobes said.

Klasnova said she is ready to switch to opposition if the nascent new platform replaced the VV in the governing coalition.

Similar opinion was expressed by deputy Jiri Stetina, who is not a VV member but was elected for the VV and wants to stay in the VV deputies' group.

Josef Dobes, former VV member and former education minister, said he is considering supporting the VV by joining its deputies' group as an unaffiliated member.

Josef Novotny and Jana Drastichova are other deputies who continue to support the VV.

On the other hand, Peake's camp has been joined by VV deputies Lenka Andrysova, Viktor Paggio, Dagmar Navratilova and Jana Sucha.

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