Czech Christian Democrats accept posts in centre-left coalition

by Reuters
Saturday, 21 December 2013 19:00 GMT

* Christian Democrats get Agriculture ministry

* Centre-left coalition seeks to present government by year end

* President could still voice objections (Adds quotes, details, background)

By Robert Muller

PRAGUE, Dec 21 (Reuters) - The Czech Christian Democratic Party leadership accepted posts in a potential centre-left coalition on Saturday, clearing the way for the prospective prime minister to present a cabinet to the president by the end of the year.

The smallest party in the emerging centre-left majority coalition was granted its demand to run the Agriculture Ministry along with two other cabinet positions, the Culture Ministry and a ministry without portfolio.

The division of ministerial posts between the three parties had been one of the last outstanding issues facing leaders of three parties trying to cobble together a government to present to the president.

"We have given preference to stability, so we would have a chance to start a good period for the country in the next four years," the Christian Democrat's vice chairman, Marian Jurecka, said on television.

The central European country is run now by a caretaker government lacking a mandate to push through major legislation while the economy recovers from a record-long recession.

The Social Democrats, winners of an October snap election after a bribery and spying scandal brought down a centre-right coalition in June, will get eight posts, including prime minister for their leader Bohuslav Sobotka.

Centrist movement ANO, which finished runner-up in the election under billionaire Andrej Babis, will fill seven ministries, including finance.

The three parties, who hold 111 out of 200 seats in parliament, have already agreed on their policy program, pledging to keep budget deficits below the EU's limit of 3 percent of gross domestic product while trying to boost growth.

The agriculture ministry controls the country's land fund which will oversee the return of property confiscated under communism back to churches, under a law passed in November 2012.

Social Democrat leader Sobotka wants to present the government by the end of the year but the coalition could still face objections from President Milos Zeman, who has said he wants a say in cabinet appointments. (Writing by Michael Kahn; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

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