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article imageCzech cabinet resigns after losing confidence vote

By AFP     Jan 17, 2018 in Politics

The minority Czech cabinet of Andrej Babis resigned on Wednesday, a day after losing a confidence vote as lawmakers turned their backs on the tycoon who is fighting charges of EU subsidy fraud.

President Milos Zeman, a Babis ally who is himself up for re-election on January 26-27, has vowed to give the premier a second chance to form a cabinet if he can negotiate to win parliament over.

"The cabinet has approved its resignation and I will ask the president for an appointment to deliver the resignation in person," Babis told reporters.

Zeman's spokesman Jiri Ovcacek said on Twitter that the president would accept the resignation, but not this week as "no date has been set yet."

Under the constitution, the president has two attempts to decide who will form the government, leaving the third and final try to the parliament speaker, who is a member of Babis's ANO (YES) movement.

The constitution also allows Babis's cabinet to continue as a fully-fledged government despite the no-confidence vote.

Campaigning on an anti-corruption, anti-euro and anti-migrant ticket, ANO came out on top in October's general election, winning 78 seats in the 200-member parliament.

In the confidence vote on Tuesday, only the 78 ANO lawmakers voted in favour of the cabinet, which comprises ANO members and unaffiliated technocrats, while 117 deputies were against.

- Stripping immunity -

Potential coalition partners have snubbed Babis, a Slovak-born billionaire, suspicious of his communist past and recent police charges over alleged fraud.

The mogul, dubbed the "Czech Trump" and ranked by Forbes as the second wealthiest Czech citizen, has been charged with breaking EU subsidy rules in 2007.

Babis allegedly pulled the Stork Nest farm out of his sprawling Agrofert chemicals, food and media holding in 2007 to make it eligible for an EU subsidy granted to small companies, before eventually returning it to the holding.

The 63-year-old premier asked parliament on Tuesday to strip him of immunity so that investigations could reveal he had nothing to hide.

"No one stole anything, there was no corruption," he said.

"We live in a country with bodies that can lead an independent investigation."

The parliament is due to debate lifting immunity for Babis on Friday.

The pro-Russian Zeman clinched pole position in round one of a presidential election last weekend, setting up a challenging run-off against pro-European Jiri Drahos, a former academic, on January 26-27.

Analyst Jiri Pehe told AFP a victory for Zeman might "pave the way for a deeper alliance with Andrej Babis".

Drahos's win on the other hand could torpedo Babis's chances to govern as Drahos does not want a prime minister facing potential charges.

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