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PM to offer govt’s resignation over Babiš’ dubious deals

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Prague, May 2 (CTK) – Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (Social Democrats, CSSD) will hand his cabinet’s resignation over controversial business activities of Finance Minister Andrej Babis (ANO) to President Milos Zeman this week, he told journalists on Tuesday.

He said it is up to the outgoing government parties to discuss the situation. A solution could be the establishment of another joint government of the CSSD, ANO and the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL), he said.

Nevertheless, he did not rule out a possible calling of an early general election.

The regular election is scheduled for October 20-21.

Sobotka said if he dismissed Babis as minister, it would enable Babis to play “a martyr’s role” for which he has been preparing recently.

At the same time, Sobotka considers the keeping of the ministerial post by Babis unacceptable, he said.

“I am ready to offer my resignation to the president. I expect to do so this week. In doing so, I want to free the [government] coalition parties’ hands to discuss ways to solve the situation,” Sobotka said.

“If the CSSD, ANO and the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) agreed on the continuation of their joint coalition, it would be necessary to discuss the post of the finance minister. It cannot be held by Babis now that he faces a conflict of interest,” Sobotka said.

It is impossible for the cabinet to keep afloat until the October general elections and pretend that nothing has happened.

Babis faces a conflict of interest because as a finance minister he controls the Financial Administration (FS), a body that is supposed to investigate his controversial purchase of untaxed one-crown bonds from the Agrofert company in 2013 when he owned it, Sobotka said.

He said he considers Babis’s explanation of his deals in a recent letter to lawmakers insufficient.

In the letter, Babis asserted that all his deals with Agrofert were legal and that he has clarified everything.

Sobotka called the letter “a deep disappointment” on Tuesday.

“It contains no new facts. The minister failed to dispel the doubts,” he said.

Sobotka said by handing in the government’s resignation, he wants to enable an impartial investigation of all cases.

Babis’s dismissal would be the simplest solution, but it would not benefit the atmosphere in the country, Sobotka continued.

“The finance minister would play the role of a martyr and he would use the situation to score points before the election,” Sobotka said.

Instead, the coalition parties will be given space for negotiations about a renewal of their cooperation, which would have to include an agreement on the post of finance minister, Sobotka said, not ruling out the decision to speed up of the general election either.

This decision would also need consent of other parties in parliament, he said.

The votes of a three-fifth majority of deputies are needed for the Chamber of Deputies to decide on its own dissolution, which is a condition for calling an early election.

Sobotka said the government’s resignation is the only reasonable solution. He wants to explain his step to his coalition partners at the cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

He wants to meet Zeman by the end of the week in order to possibly hand over his resignation to him and to discuss the situation, he said.

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