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Parties agree on numbers of Chamber committee heads

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Prague, Nov 23 (CTK) – The ANO movement will head seven lower house committees and the Democratic Bloc four, the Pirates, the Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) and the Communists (KSCM) will head two each and the Social Democrats (CSSD) one, according to an agreement the Czech parties reached on Thursday.

The information was confirmed by representatives of the lower house groups of the Pirates, the KSCM and the CSSD.

The centre-right opposition Democratic Bloc has 48 seats in the 200-member house and comprises the Civic Democrats (ODS), the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL), TOP 09 and Mayors and Independents (STAN). ANO has 78 seats, the Pirates 22, the SPD 22, the KSCM 15 and the CSSD 15.

KSCM group’s chairman Pavel Kovacik said the parties also agreed on how many members individual committees would have.

On November 29, the lower parties are to meet to negotiate about the lower house commissions, he said.

Kovacik said he believed a compromise would be found soon so that the lower house session can deal with further issues, primarily with the 2018 state budget bill that needs to be passed by the end of the year to avoid a stop-gap budget.

The outgoing centre-left government of Bohuslav Sobotka (CSSD) submitted the state budget bill to the lower house at the end of September, but only the lower house in its new lineup produced by the late October general election can take the vote on the budget.

ANO lower house group’s head Jaroslav Faltynek said the agreement was based on the proportional representation of the parties in the house.

Faltynek said the KSCM had two committee heads and the CSSD one although both parties had 15 MPs because ANO yielded the post of the head of the mandate and immunity committee and KSCM MP Stanislav Grospic was elected to it on Thursday.

Faltynek said the mandate and immunity committee is thus headed by the opposition. The Democratic Bloc, the Pirates and the CSSD challenged the view that the KSCM was an opposition party.

The mandate and immunity committee will play a major role in the possible release of ANO leader Andrej Babis, probable next prime minister, and Faltynek for criminal prosecution over a suspected EU subsidy fraud. The police asked the lower house to strip them of their MP’s immunity. Two months ago, in the previous election period, the lower house already released Babis and Faltynek for prosecution, but since both politicians defended their parliamentary seats in the October elections, the process must be repeated.

CSSD MP Katerina Valachova said her group nominated outgoing Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek for the head of the foreign affairs committee.

Valachova said the CSSD is against a SPD MP heading the security committee. “However, it seems that this plan is supported by a majority,” she said.

The SPD of Tomio Okamura is an anti-Islam movement that wants the country to leave the European Union and hold a national referendum on the departure from the EU.

Valachova said the Democratic Bloc could choose four out of five committees (for EU, legal, education or defence affairs or the controlling committee) it is going to head. The committee that the Bloc gives up will go to ANO.

The STAN and TOP 09, whose groups are the smallest, are ready to accept having no committee head, STAN MP Jan Farsky said, indicating that the ODS would head two committees and the KDU-CSL two.

The Pirates on Thursday again proposed that all committee heads be nominated by the opposition because ANO is forming a minority government.

Pirate group’s head Jakub Michalek said ANO should not have the posts of the agriculture minister and the agriculture committee head when the billionaire Babis owned agricultural firms. Michalek said there was a similar problem in health care.

Earlier this year, Babis had to transfer his giant Agrofert concern to trust funds. He also owned fertility clinics.

Michalek said ANO, the SPD and the KSCM refused to deal with this issue.

The parties on Thursday also talked about the candidates for lower house deputy heads. On Thursday, five MPs were nominated for the five posts.

Michalek said the Pirates would not support Okamura and KSCM leader Vojtech Filip for deputy heads because they do not consider the SPD and the Communists democratic parties.

The CSSD and the Democratic Bloc said they would not support Okamura either. In reaction, the SPD said it would not support ODS chairman Petr Fiala for a deputy head.

Filip and Okamura ran for lower house deputy heads already in the previous election period. Filip received the post, while Okamura eventually failed to win it four years ago.

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