Czech govt crisis ends as consensus minister named

Prague, Aug 27 (AFP/APP):A three-month political crisis in the Czech Republic ended on Tuesday with the appointment of a new culture minister from the ranks of the minority government’s junior partner.

The leftwing Social Democrats (CSSD) had threatened to pull out of the fragile coalition unless President Milos Zeman approved their nominee, party vice president Michal Smarda.

Zeman, 74, rejected Smarda, a small-town mayor, questioning his qualifications to take on a ministerial portfolio.

The CSSD, which had accused the president of flouting the constitution, last week finally withdrew its nomination of Smarda to propose Lubomir Zaoralek, 62, who was foreign minister from 2014 to 2017.

The CSSD is paired in the minority coalition with the populist ANO movement, and they rely on the informal backing of the Communist Party to survive in parliament.

ANO leader Prime Minister Andrej Babis — currently under investigation for corruption — sided with the president, a political ally, on the issue.

Zeman, who headed the CSSD from 1993 to 2001, has been at loggerheads with the party since some of its politicians refused to support his candidacy for president in 2003.

That election was won by eurosceptic Vaclav Klaus, who served two five-year terms as president.
The political fortunes of PM Babis, a billionaire, depend to some extent on Zeman.

If the premier is charged with embezzling EU funds, Zeman would be within his constitutional rights to scrap the case against him.

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