Czech President says to appoint Sobotka PM on Jan 17 but has reservations about some cabinet members.

By bne IntelliNews January 13, 2014

Czech President Milos Zeman said he will appoint elections winner Social Democrats’ leader Bohuslav Sobotka as the country’s Prime Minister on January 17 enabling the centre-left government to take power by the end of the month, CTK news agency reported. Yet, Zeman conditioned the appointment of the new cabinet with the parliament’s approval of a law on public servants and also said he has reservations about some of the ministers proposed by Sobotka.

Zeman demands the parliament to give an initial approval to the law before he appoints ANO leader Andrej Babis as finance minister. Babis is fighting allegations that he has been an informant of the communist-era secret services. The new law overrides a ban on communist-era collaborators becoming ministers. The parliament is expected to debate the new legislation on Jan 21.

Zeman also said that he has doubts about the qualifications of some of the candidates for ministers, namely Milan Chovanec, Jan Mladek and Jiri Dienstbier. Chovanec, who is tipped to become the interior minister, received a degree from a law faculty that was hit by a scandal involving fast-tracking degrees for some students. Mladek, the candidate for industry minister, does not have a security clearance and Dienstbier, the candidate for minister of human rights, is rumoured to be Social Democrats’ (CSSD) leader in the forthcoming EU elections.

CSSD, which narrowly won the October early elections, formed a coalition pact with centrist ANO and Christian-Democrats. The coalition commands a 111-seat majority in the 200-member parliament. If appointed by Zeman, the new government will end a political stalemate that has crippled policy making since June when the former centre-right government collapsed amid a bribery and spying scandal. The three-party government has pledged not to raise taxes this year and boost spending to support the economy that emerged from a record-long recession in mid-2013.

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