Pro-Russia Communists to back new Czech minority cabinet

Czech President Miloš Zeman (R) toasts with champagne with new Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (L) at the Prague Castle in Prague, Czech Republic, 6 June 2018. [Martin Divisek/EPA/EFE]

Czech president Miloš Zeman said on Sunday (24 June) he may appoint a new two-party cabinet on Tuesday or Wednesday following eight months of political instability after last October’s election.

Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, leader of the centrist ANO party, has negotiated a coalition with the centre-left Social Democrats, and the path to forming a cabinet opened on Friday after a compromise on personnel.

Zeman told daily Blesk in an online interview that he saw no reason for delay after meeting ministerial candidates on Monday.

The last hurdle to forming a government was Zeman’s rejection of Social Democrat candidate Miroslav Poche for foreign minister, saying he was not sufficiently opposed to accepting migrants. The seat may remain unfilled temporarily.

New Czech government in jeopardy over foreign minister nomination

The Czech Communist party will withhold support from the next government if the Social Democrats stick to their nominee for the post of foreign minister, Communist leader Vojtech Filip said on Sunday (17 June).

The government would have just 93 seats in the 200-seat lower house of parliament and would have to rely on support from deputies from the far-left, pro-Russian Communist Party to survive a vote of confidence every new administration must call within a month of its appointment.

The Communists, who have had no share on national level power since the end of their rule in 1989, have indicated they would support the cabinet but are yet to make a final decision.

Babiš, a billionaire businessman, has declared himself as pro-EU and rejected Communist demands for reducing the NATO country’s participation in foreign military missions.

The government’s weakness in parliament will however mean it will need to listen to the Communists who mostly share the president’s pro-Moscow and pro-China views.

Under Babiš, the Czech Republic will also remain among the EU’s most anti-immigration countries, refusing to take in asylum seekers who arrive in other EU member states such as Italy.

Babiš’s ANO movement had initially sought to form a more centre-right government but most mainstream parties rejected joining an administration led by Babiš. His current one-party cabinet lost a vote of confidence in January and has since ruled in a caretaker capacity.

He faces fraud charges over tapping a €2 million EU subsidy which police say he was not entitled to. He denies any wrongdoing.

Czech PM Babiš battles fraud charges as cabinet loses confidence vote

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš’s minority government lost a confidence vote yesterday (16 January), forcing him to try to cut a deal with opposition parties to stay in office while he also battles allegations of subsidy fraud.

Babiš is among the richest Czechs after building an empire in farming, chemicals, food production and media that receives subsidies and has numerous business interactions with the state.

He transferred his firm, Agrofert, to trust funds to meet legislative requirements but rivals say he still has conflicts of interest as beneficiary of the funds.

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