Zeman to appoint Sobotka Czech prime minister on January 17


10.01.2014 16:48

Prague - Czech President Milos Zeman will appoint Social Democrat (CSSD) chairman Bohuslav Sobotka prime minister on Friday, January 17, he said at a press conference today.


Prezident republiky Miloš Zeman vystoupil 10. ledna v Praze na tiskové konferenci k aktuální politické situaci. ČTK Doležal Michal

He could appoint a new government by end-January if the Chamber of Deputies passes a civil service bill in the first reading by then, which Zeman set as a condition.

Zeman said Sobotka has fulfilled the sole condition he gave him when he charged him with negotiating about a government [to be based on the October early general election´s results] and a new coalition of the CSSD, the ANO movement and Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL).

Zeman wanted Sobotka to ensure a reliable parliamentary majority for the new coalition government.

The three parties have a majority of 111 votes in the 200-seat Chamber of Deputies.

"Mr Sobotka fulfilled this condition and I told him during our meeting at Lany chateau on Friday (January 3) that I will appoint him prime minister a week after the coalition agreement is signed," Zeman said.

The three parties signed the agreement on Monday, January 6.

Zeman said he could appoint the whole government, in whose creation he said he did not interfere because this is not what he could do, by the end of the month.

However, this requires the passing of the civil service bill in the first reading, which Zeman said previously is a condition for the appointment of ANO leader Andrej Babis as a government member without a clean lustration certificate.

"I firmly believe that this condition will be fulfilled after January 21, when the Chamber of Deputies will deal with the service bill at an extraordinary session, and I suppose that the government could be appointed by the end of this year (sic) as I told the Reuters agency yesterday already," Zeman said.

He said he wants to talk to all candidates for ministers, some of whom he criticised today.

Zeman also said his proposal concerning the civil service law is an accommodating gesture. He said if he wanted to block the emergence of the government, there would be nothing easier but to make use of this valid legal obstacle, "that is called the lustration law."

The ministers of all previous Czech governments had to submit a clean lustration certificate before they were appointed.

Babis could have a problem with this because he is registered in Slovakia as an agent of the communist StB secret police, which he dismisses. He is suing the Slovak National Memory Institute (UPN) over it.

The new civil service bill does not require the clean lustration certificate from ministers.

The lustration laws from 1991 bar former secret police (StB) agents and collaborators, Communist Party (KSC) high-ranking officials and members of the KSC para-military People's Militia from holding high posts in the civil service, the judiciary, the military and other spheres.

Zeman also commented on the fact that two versions of the civil service bill are being worked on parallelly. One has been submitted to parliament by the CSSD deputies. The other is prepared by the caretaker cabinet, which rejected the CSSD´s proposal on Wednesday and will vote on its own next week.

Zeman said the civil service law, which was passed in 2002 but its validity has been repeatedly postponed since, has not yet taken effect because it has not enabled the governments to plant their prominent favourites in various posts at ministers.

The CSSD-proposed bill is a draft amendment to the above law, which Zeman called obsolete today.

Zeman said he would consider it unfortunate if the new service law took effect only as from January 1, 2015, as planned. This could cause a new conflict with the EU which has criticised Prague for failing to implement this law, he warned.

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