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Zeman to assign Babiš to negotiate on new gov’t next week

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Prague, Oct 23 (CTK) – Czech President Milos Zeman will assign Andrej Babis, chairman of the election-winning ANO movement, to negotiate about the formation of a new government next week, Babis said after their meeting at the presidential Lany chateau two days after the October 20-21 general election on Monday.

He told reporters that the negotiations will last until the new Chamber of Deputies’ leadership is elected.

Once the Chamber has its leadership, Babis expects Zeman to assign him to form a government.

“The president told me he will keep his promise and assign me to start negotiations about the new Czech government pending the election of the new bodies, which means the Chamber of Deputies leadership,” Babis said.

Zeman plans to set the new Chamber of Deputies’ constituent session date on the farthest possible day within the 30-day post-election deadline set by law, which is Monday, November 20.

The session is expected to deal with the establishment of the Chamber’s bodies.

“If the bodies and the lower house leadership are elected, the president will subsequently assign me with negotiations to form a new Czech cabinet,” Babis said.

He said Zeman did not give any recommendations to him about the future new government coalition’s lineup.

Nevertheless, Babis indicated that he would prefer the emergence of a coalition of his ANO and the Civic Democrats (ODS), the election runner-up.

“Together with the ODS, we have 103 mandates [in the 200-seat lower house]. According to my experience in the previous government, the lower the number of partners, the better,” Babis, whose ANO is part of the outgoing centre-left cabinet together with the Social Democrats (CSSD) and the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL), said.

ANO emerged the far strongest from the weekend election, with 78 lower house seats, followed by the ODS with 25.

ODS chairman Petr Fiala has said his party would not ally with Babis due to Babis’s being prosecuted for a suspected subsidy fraud and due to the parties’ incompatible programmes.

Babis repeated that he does not want the Communists (KSCM) and the [populist newcomer] Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) to be part of the cabinet.

Babis said the important thing for the new cabinet is that it operates as a single team. The ministers need not necessarily be members of ANO, he said, adding that he can imagine a cabinet comprised of [unaffiliated] experts.

Zeman previously heralded that he will keep the promise he gave before the elections and assign Babis to form a cabinet. He said he would consider tapping someone else only if Babis declined the post of PM-designate, which he would consider a mistake on Babis’s part.

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