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Zeman to appoint Babiš PM again with 101 MPs’ support only

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Prague, Jan 10 (CTK) – President Milos Zeman will demand signatures of at least an absolute majority of MPs (101) in support of Andrej Babis’s government during the second attempt before appointing him as prime minister-designate again, Zeman told reporters on leaving the Chamber of Deputies on Wednesday.

Zeman supported the current minority government of ANO chairman Babis in his address before a confidence vote in the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of Czech parliament.

He also reiterated that he would entrust Babis with forming a government for the second time as well.

Babis said he considers Zeman’s demand standard and logical.

“As far as I know, the president did not explicitly say he would require 101 signatures, but he said he would like to have a guarantee that the second cabinet would win at least 101 votes in the confidence vote,” Babis told CTK.

Zeman said he would like Babis to regularly report to him on the ongoing negotiations about support for his government. He will appoint him as PM again as soon as he announces that he has sufficient support, Zeman added, in reaction to a question how long such talks might last.

“I expect Andrej Babis to regularly inform me about the results of his talks. As soon as he comes and says he has at least 101 secured votes, I will appoint him prime minister for the second time,” Zeman said.

Before appointing Babis’s first government, Zeman did not demand signatures of 101 MPs from Babis.

Representatives of other parties mostly said Zeman’s demand was connected with the forthcoming presidential election in which Zeman is defending his post. The first round will be held this weekend and the possible second round two weeks later.

Miroslav Kalousek, head of the TOP 09 deputy group, said Zeman is playing a clever power game in which be is seeking only his own interests, not the interests of the Czech Republic.

Zeman expected Babis’s first government not to win support from parliament, while Babis will now rule the country without the parliament’s confidence for as long as Zeman wants and Zeman will be setting his own conditions to the prime minister, Kalousek said.

Christian Democrat (KDU-CSL) chairman Pavel Belobradek said Zeman should have required the signatures of at least 101 MPs from Babis already before the present attempt to form a stable government. “We could have been spared of this vaudeville called the first attempt (to form a government),” he told CTK.

KDU-CSL deputy chairman Marian Jurecka indicated on Twitter that Zeman did not demand the signatures from Babis before Wednesday’s confidence vote because this might lower his chances to be re-elected president.

The Pirates share this view. “Zeman wants to win the election and so he flatters the voters of Andrej Babis,” said Pirate MP Mikulas Ferjencik.

Social Democrat (CSSD) acting leader Milan Chovanec said the demand of signatures is a step taken in the right direction that will contribute to the country’s stability.

Communist (KSCM) deputy head Jiri Dolejs said Zeman seemed to be creating space for further negotiations and his support for the minority cabinet would exert pressure on the parties in parliament for an unlimited time.

“At the same time, (Zeman) is cementing the alliance for the presidential election. A logical calculation,” Dolejs said.

Zeman is the favourite of the election. Opinion polls indicate that he would win the first round, but may lose to academic Jiri Drahos in the runoff vote. Zeman’s opponents claim that all his recent steps are motivated only by his effort to be re-elected.

The CSSD, the KDU-CSL and the Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) right-wing populist movement did not rule out possible participation in the next government led by ANO.

ANO has 78 MPs in the 200-seat Chamber, the SPD has 22 MPs CSSD 15 and the KDU-CSL 10.

However, the CSSD and the KDU-CSL demand that none of the ministers be prosecuted, which would exclude Babis from the cabinet as he faces criminal prosecution on suspicion of an EU subsidy fraud. He previously resolutely rejected the idea of someone else being prime minister.

After the early general election four years ago, Zeman demanded the signatures of an absolute majority of members of the 200-seat lower house from the then CSSD chairman Bohuslav Sobotka (CSSD) who was forming a government.

Zeman wanted to see the signatures before he appointed Sobotka PM-designate. The coalition government of the CSSD, ANO and the KDU-CSL won confidence in the Chamber of Deputies then.

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