Czech PM Loses Confidence Vote

Doubts as to whether the Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis could continue in his post were raised on January 16 after he failed to win parliamentary backing for his minority government.

Mr Babis, whose ANO party took the most seats in a general election last October but did not win an outright majority, has failed to do a formal coalition deal with any of the other Czech parliamentary parties, naming a cabinet of ANO members and independents. Under Czech law, a new government must win a vote of confidence at the start of its term.

The cabinet will now resign, staying in office in an interim role. Czech President Milos Zeman has said that he will appoint Mr Babis as premier again. That decision may have to wait until after the outcome of Mr Zeman’s presidential election run-off against Jiri Drahos on January 26-27.

Petr Fiala, leader of the Civic Democrats, said that the result of the confidence vote was a personal defeat for Mr Babis. “He has wasted three months,” said Mr Fiala. “The prime minister should stop dreaming about a minority government, start trying to form a government which has majority support.”

Leader of the Christian Democrats, Pavel Belobradek, concurred. “Mr Babis did not make enough effort to negotiate with the other parties,” he said.

Mr Babis is under investigation by the European Union’s anti-graft department OLAF for an alleged fraud relating to an EU subsidy of 2 million euros. OLAF claims that the money – intended for small-businesses – was diverted to companies allegedly linked to the prime minister and his political and business associate Jaroslav Faltynek. Both men deny wrongdoing.

The confidence vote came the same day that Czech prosecutors requested parliament lift Mr Babis’s immunity from prosecution. MPs are may vote on the matter as early as this week.