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Czech ruling party signals readiness to move to opposition, eventually

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The Czech ruling ANO party expects to end up in opposition after two rival coalitions won a combined majority in parliament in last weekend’s election, a senior lawmaker from the party said on Tuesday.

Jaroslav Faltynek told journalists his party would not try to block the transfer of power, signalling a growing acceptance in the party that it has no chance of forming a new government.

“We can count to 108” seats won by the opposition, said Faltynek, a key official in ANO. “So we expect we will end up in opposition.”

But he also refused to say whether the party, which is the biggest single faction with 72 seats in the 200-seat parliament, would give up an attempt to have the first shot at forming a government.

“That is a question for the prime minister and the president,” he said when asked on the matter.

Prime Minister Andrej Babis said on Tuesday that President Milos Zeman had told him that, as the head of the biggest party, he would get the first shot at forming a cabinet despite facing a combined opposition majority in parliament.

Babis, who had met the president on Sunday just before Zeman was taken to intensive care at a Prague hospital, said in a live briefing on television he would only say when he gets the mandate from the president whether he would accept it or not.

LENGTHY TRANSFER OF POWER

Babis had said on Saturday, after the election results, that he would still try talk to other parties and form a cabinet if given the mandate by Zeman, which could extend the process of transferring power by months.

Zeman, 77, was taken into a Prague hospital on Sunday with an undisclosed condition. He has not made any comment on next steps since the election.

Two opposition groups, the centre-right Together and the centrist Pirates/Mayors, won a combined 108 seats in the lower house and declared they would form a government together and not talk to ANO.

Zbynek Stanjura, a senior lawmaker for Together, said on Tuesday it would be a success to have a new government in place and with a declaration of parliament’s confidence by January.

The new cabinet would end the country’s disputes with the European Commission related to what the EU executive declared to be conflict of interest that Babis had as prime minister and the founder of farming, food, chemicals and media empire, Agrofert.

It could also be more fiscally conservative and less friendly with Hungary’s Viktor Orban, whom Babis considers a close friend despite rule of law disputes Hungary has with the EU.

via Reuters

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