Czech PM Andrej Babiš ready to hand government to new five-party coalition

Babiš will not accept President Miloš Zeman's directive to head talks in forming a new government, he told journalists on Friday.

ČTK

Written by ČTK Published on 16.10.2021 09:35 (updated on 16.10.2021) Reading time: 3 minutes

Czech PM Andrej Babiš will not accept a directive from President Miloš Zeman to initiate government-forming talks as the leader of the country's strongest party, ANO, he told Frekvence 1 radio on Friday. Babiš added that ANO is ready to pass power to the new five-party coalition that has formed a majority alliance and move into opposition.

The current Prime Minister had previously indicated that he probably would not try to form a new cabinet, as the five opposition parties control 108 out of the total 200 seats in the new Chamber of Deputies that emerged from last weekend's elections.

"We will hand it over to the new coalition, and we will be in opposition," Babiš told Frekvence 1.

"I will not accept the president's offer to task me to form a government. We will switch into opposition without a single attempt [to form a new government]. We don't cling to posts, we will not block anything. I am interested in our country prospering as it did under our government," the PM later tweeted.

In the outgoing minority government, ANO's junior partner was the Social Democrat party, which failed to cross the five-percent threshold needed to re-enter the lower house in last weekend's elections.

The election was won by SPOLU (Together), an opposition alliance consisting of the Civic Democrats, Christian Democrats, and TOP 09, which gained 71 seats in the lower house.

ANO finished second by a narrow margin but won 72 seats due to the system of translating votes into house seats.

Before the elections, Zeman repeatedly said that he would entrust government-forming talks to the leader of the victorious party or movement, not of a coalition, and called the election coalitions a move to cheat voters.

SPOLU, along with a coalition made up of the Pirates and STAN parties, have nevertheless launched negotiations on forming a new government and say they believe that Zeman will respect the clear majority they have in parliament.

On Friday, Babiš repeated that Zeman had confirmed the vow to entrust him with government-forming negotiations as the leader of the strongest party when they met last Sunday, one day after the elections. Zeman was rushed from the Lany presidential manor to Prague's Central Military Hospital shortly after meeting with Zeman.

Babiš said he considered it right to first tell the President of his decision not to accept the directive, but due to Zeman's hospitalization their dialogue has been delayed until his health improves.

Similarly, SPOLU's candidate for Prime Minister, Petr Fiala, is also waiting for a meeting with Zeman.

The entrustment with government-forming negotiations is a custom introduced by former president Václav Havel. The Czech constitution only mentions the president's power to appoint the PM and their cabinet. Afterwards, the PM is bound to ask the Chamber of Deputies to take a vote of confidence in the cabinet within 30 days. If the cabinet fails to win confidence, the president has another oppurtunity to appoint a PM; a possible third attempt is up to the chair of the lower house.

According to many, ANO's election defeat will result in Babiš's candidacy for president. Babiš, 67, repeatedly declined to comment on this possibility, but did not directly rule it out.

Previously, Babiš said he had no desire to be part of the leadership of the new lower house. He wants to be an ordinary deputy and would like to work in the Chamber's health committee, he said.

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