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Zeman to sack Babiš, appoint Pilný today

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Prague, May 23 (CTK) – Czech President Milos Zeman will dismiss Deputy PM and Finance Minister Andrej Babis from the government and appoint Ivan Pilny (both ANO) as a new finance minister on Wednesday, Zeman’s spokesman Jiri Ovcacek told reporters today.

Zeman is to meet ANO chairman Babis before sacking him. Zeman will meet Pilny later today.

Ovcacek also told CTK today that Zeman would appoint Environment Minister Richard Brabec as deputy PM next week to replace Babis.

Zeman will also meet Education, Sports and Youth Minister Katerina Valachova (Social Democrats, CSSD) next week, Ovcacek said.

Valachova decided to tender her resignation as of May 31 to take political responsibility for the case of influencing sport subsidies of which her deputy Simona Kratochvilova is accused along with Miroslav Pelta, chairman of the Czech Football Association (FACR).

Ovcacek said Zeman would dismiss Babis at Prague Castle, the presidential seat, at 17:00 on Wednesday.

“The government crisis stirred up by Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka will be thereby terminated,” Ovcacek said.

Zeman said last week he had no objections to appointing Pilny and that he might do so this week.

Babis indicated in the past days that he was willing to leave the government. He said he would call on Zeman to dismiss him. However, he disagrees with the reasons for his proposed dismissal.

Sobotka justified his proposal for Babis’s dismissal by the suspicions of tax evasion and influencing the media Babis owned.

The ANO movement first proposed Babis’s deputy Alena Schillerova and Environment Minister Richard Brabec (ANO) for his replacement. Sobotka rejected these names, arguing with the candidates’ close links to the Agrofert Holding.

Babis owned the concern, including several media outlets, until February when he transferred it to trustee funds to comply with an amended conflict of interest law.

The disputes in the government coalition of the CSSD, ANO and the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) erupted three weeks ago. They were accompanied by several twist and turns, mutual accusations and insulting mainly of Babis and Sobotka but also other top politicians.

Babis ends in the cabinet both as finance minister and deputy PM. Brabec will replace him in the latter post.

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