Czech parties sign agreement to form centre-right government

Major step taken towards replacing the outgoing administration of Prime Minister Andrej Babis following October election.

Petr Fiala is now in line to succeed Babis as prime minister [File: Milan Kammermayer/Reuters]

Five Czech parties have signed a pact to form a new centre-right coalition government following their strong showing in last month’s vote, a major step towards replacing the outgoing administration of Prime Minister Andrej Babis.

Ranging from the mildly eurosceptic Civic Democrats to the centre-left liberal Pirate Party – they have pledged to cut budget deficits, which have spiralled since last year amid the pandemic and rises in pensions and wages.

Together, they won 108 seats in the 200-member lower house of parliament in the October 8-9 election.

While campaigning, they said they were united by a desire to remove Babis who they accused of conflicts of interest through his role as the founder of the Agrofert chemicals, food, media empire.

Babis has regularly denied wrongdoing and said he met legal obligations by putting the firms in trust funds in 2017 before he became prime minister.

His prospective successor as prime minister, Petr Fiala, said on Monday that the new coalition needed to act quickly.

“We need to solve the problems which trouble the people as fast as possible, and to lead the country out of the several crises it has been in – health, economic, and a crisis of values,” he said at the ceremony launching the pact.

Apart from the budget deficit, which is expected to exceed 7 percent of GDP this year, the new government will face spiralling energy prices and a new wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

Under Czech procedures, President Milos Zeman can appoint Fiala after the current government resigns following the opening session of parliament, which starts later on Monday and is expected to last several days.

Babis’ centrist ANO movement emerged as the biggest single party in the election, but he acknowledged soon after that he would not be able to gather a big enough coalition and said he was ready to move into opposition.

Source: Reuters