- POSTED: 10 Jan 2014 21:30
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The Czech president said Friday he would tap left-winger Bohuslav Sobotka to be prime minister, enabling him to form a three-party coalition government to end a drawn-out political crisis.
PRAGUE: The Czech president said Friday he would tap left-winger Bohuslav Sobotka to be prime minister, enabling him to form a three-party coalition government to end a drawn-out political crisis.
"The appointment will take place next... Friday," President Milos Zeman told reporters.
The announcement comes months after a spy and bribery scandal toppled the previous centre-right cabinet and triggered an October snap election, unleashing political trouble in an EU member already struggling with financial woes.
Sobotka's Social Democrats, who narrowly won the early vote, are teaming up with the billionaire-led populist ANO movement, which shot out of nowhere to finish a close second, and the smaller centrist Christian Democrats.
The coalition will command a 111-seat majority in the 200-member parliament.
Zeman, the Czech Republic's first-ever directly elected president and in office since last March, said Sobotka had satisfied his key condition of ensuring "a comfortable parliamentary majority".
The coalition deal focuses on growth and employment in the country of 10.5 million people, which emerged from a record 18-month recession in the second quarter of last year.
The Czech central bank expects a 0.9 per cent contraction for 2013 -- the same as in 2012 -- ahead of 1.5 per cent growth this year.
ANO party chief Andrej Babis, the second wealthiest Czech, is tipped as finance minister, despite allegations that he collaborated with the communist-era secret police and has potential conflicts of interest due to his vast business empire.
But Zeman has said he could give Babis the nod if parliament passes a law overriding a ban on communist-era collaborators becoming ministers.
Sobotka's team is bent on keeping the public finance deficit at or under 3.0 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), the ceiling fixed by the European Union.
At Babis's request, it has also vowed not to hike taxes this year but instead trim spending on public administration to rein in the deficit.
Czech economy one of central Europe's biggest
Dependent on car production and exports to the struggling eurozone, the Czech economy is central Europe's third largest after Poland and Austria.
Although Sobotka and Zeman are both left-wingers, they fell out back in 2003 when Sobotka refused to back Zeman for president at a time when the head of state was still elected by parliament.
Following his appointment, Sobotka -- a 42-year-old former lawyer -- will present his choice of ministers to Zeman.
The three parties have already picked their candidates and listed them in a coalition deal signed by their leaders on Monday.
If approved, the cabinet must then submit to a confidence vote in parliament within 30 days.
Zeman suggested he had a problem with several candidates, without mentioning anyone.
But Sobotka said the president needed "really serious legal or constitutional reasons" to veto a candidate -- reasons Zeman does not have.
Pavel Saradin, a political analyst at Palacky University, agreed that Zeman was unlikely to snub ministers proposed by Sobotka.
"All three parties are backing the candidates and conflict could harm the president," he told AFP.
The early election followed months of political turmoil after then prime minister Petr Necas fell over a scandal involving his then lover and now wife last June.
Zeman took the lead role in the political crisis, naming a non-partisan cabinet of cronies, which is still ruling the country.