Czech leader asks election winner to form government
By KAREL JANICEK
Oct. 31, 2017
PRAGUE (AP) — The Czech president asked Andrej Babis on Tuesday to try to form a new government after the populist billionaire's centrist movement won parliamentary elections.
Babis' ANO (YES) movement won 78 seats in the 200-seat lower house of Parliament earlier in October. Eight other parties and groups won seats, including the anti-migrant and anti-EU party Freedom and Direct Democracy, which finished fourth.
After their meeting in the presidential castle in Lany, west of Prague, President Milos Zeman said his move was "the first step to create a stable, successful and long-term government in the Czech Republic."
Zeman said he would formally swear Babis in as prime minister after the first session of the new house and the outgoing government's resignation.
"It's certainly a big day for our movement," Babis said. "I'm honored."
He said he would like to present his government's program before Christmas but he's got a long way to go.
None of the parties has agreed to create a coalition government with ANO because they consider Babis unsuitable to lead the government due to charges he has been facing of fraud linked to EU subsidies.
Babis said he would be seeking to create a minority government of ANO with support from independent experts.
Any new government has to win a parliamentary confidence vote to rule.
"We will try to win support from the lawmakers by our program," Babis said.
So far, only the Communists have indicated their lawmakers might be ready to support the new government, but their 15 seats would not be enough for a majority.
Babis said one of the first steps for his new Cabinet will be to increase pensions. He's a known opponent of setting a date for the Czech Republic to adopt the euro common currency.
If Babis' government fails to win the confidence vote, Zeman, his ally, said he would ask him to form a government again.
Another failure would mean it would be a task for the new speaker of the house to select a prime minister. A member of ANO is expected to be elected to the post.