Published: Fri, May 05, 2017
Global Media | By Garry Long

Czech PM not ready to resign, fires finance minister

Czech PM not ready to resign, fires finance minister

Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka reversed his decision to resign on Friday, saying he would instead seek the removal of Finance Minister Andrej Babis, his main political rival, to end a dispute in the centre-left government.

The prime minister's resignation could mean a simple reshuffle of the government, but it may equally result in early elections to the lower house of the Czech parliament that were originally planned for October.

He said the minister, a billionaire businessman, had not properly explained suspicions that he avoided paying taxes. He has repeatedly denied wrongdoing.

President Milos Zeman "gave Sobotka a dressing down in front of cameras on Thursday" over his awkward handling of the government's resignation, Reuters writes.

"Under the circumstances, the resignation makes no sense", Sobotka said after meeting his party's leadership.

The premier said his initial offer to quit was meant as a resignation of the entire cabinet, which has traditionally been the practice in the past. "I have a different solution".

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"There is no deadline, but otherwise (the constitution says that) the president dismisses a government member if the prime minister proposes it, there is no arbitrary power", constitutional law professor Ales Gerloch told Reuters.

"I believe that the president will act in line with the Czech Constitution at least in this case and fires the minister without delay", Sobotka said.

Zeman also met Sobotka's deputy, Interior Minister Milan Chovanec on Wednesday and will talk to Pavel Belobradek, chairman of the Christian Democrats, the third coalition party, on Thursday.

In comments dripping with sarcasm, Zeman wished Sobotka "success, health and happiness" in his future life and insisted that his government "refrain from undertaking any strategic decisions".

The leaders of the three-party coalition are scheduled to meet next week over the crisis. Sobotka previously wanted his cabinet to resign on Thursday, but now first plans to provide a plan to promptly resolve the post-resignation crisis as well as handing an analysis criticizing Babis' suspicious business dealings to Zeman.

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