Name me PM now, Czech election winner urges president

by Reuters
Friday, 3 January 2014 15:11 GMT

By Jason Hovet

PRAGUE, Jan 3 (Reuters) - Czech Social Democrat leader Bohuslav Sobotka urged the president to move quickly to name him prime minister, as the two men ready for talks on forming the country's next government.

Policymaking in the Czech Republic has been paralysed since last June after the collapse of a centre-right cabinet in a spying and bribery scandal triggered an early election in October.

Sobotka, who narrowly won that vote and is looking to return the Social Democrats to power for the first time since 2006, is due to present proposed cabinet nominations to President Milos Zeman on Monday, after he completes coalition talks with two partner parties.

But the pair are long-time rivals, and Sobotka's allies fear Zeman could delay appointing him as premier to force him to alter the cabinet's make-up in the president's favour.

Since winning the country's first direct presidential vote a year ago, Zeman has attempted to exert influence over the political process that critics say exceeds his brief.

Under the constitution, the president first appoints the prime minister and then individual ministers proposed by the new head of the cabinet.

Sobotka said Zeman should kick-start this process without delay.

"Based on the constitution, nobody holds the power to obstruct the establishment and formation of a government that has a majority in the lower house," Sobotka told reporters on Friday.

"I think the worst that could happen is that we would start off 2014 with some struggles between the new government and the president."

A caretaker cabinet, made up of Zeman allies and with no backing in parliament, has run the country since October's snap election.

Sobotka and the Social Democrats are now putting the finishing touches to a coalition with the centrist movement ANO and the Christian Democrats that would aim to revive the recession-hit economy.

The president's office said a meeting between Zeman and Sobotka should take place by the end of the week but that it was not expected that Sobotka would be named prime minister yet.

Zeman has voiced reservations over some potential nominees.

The coalition parties pledged to keep the state budget deficit below an EU limit of 3 percent of national output while looking to return money into people's pockets to revive demand after tax hikes and spending cuts under the previous government contributed to a six-quarter economic contraction. (Editing by John Stonestreet)

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