INTERVIEW-Czech president says he will appoint Social Democrat as PM within days

by Reuters
Thursday, 9 January 2014 15:09 GMT

By Robert Muller and Jan Lopatka

PRAGUE, Jan 9 (Reuters) - Czech President Milos Zeman will appoint Social Democrat leader Bohuslav Sobotka as prime minister within days, he told Reuters on Thursday, opening the way for a centre-left coalition to try to revive the economy after months of political stalemate.

Zeman, in the first direct confirmation he would soon give the premiership to his longtime rival Sobotka, said he had reservations about some nominations for ministers, but it was "very realistic" to expect the full cabinet would be appointed by the end of the month.

The Social Democrats won an early election in October but took some time to negotiate a coalition with two centrist partners. Zeman also faced accusations that he was stretching out the process while a caretaker cabinet made up of his allies remained in power.

Zeman, a 69-year-old political heavyweight who won the country's first direct presidential election a year ago, denied he was dragging his feet. "Mr Sobotka has fulfilled all the conditions I had given to him," Zeman said. "Therefore he will, of course, be appointed prime minister."

The new government, the first to be led by a Social Democrat since 2006, is expected to loosen budgetary policies as it tries to help the Czech Republic recover from its longest recession.

Policymaking has been paralysed since June last year when a centre-right government fell over a scandal involving allegations of bribery and illegal surveillance. The caretaker administration which has run the country since then has lacked parliamentary support to push through major legislation needed to boost the economy.

Zeman said he had told Sobotka he would be appointed a week after the signing of a coalition pact between the Social Democrats, the newly formed anti-establishment ANO movement and the centrist Christian Democrats. This happened on Jan. 6.

The president said he would make his reservations about some unspecified ministerial candidates public on Friday. This will cause friction between the president and Sobotka, who has the right as prime minister to nominate individual ministers to the president, who then appoints them. (Editing by David Stamp)

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