Babis, leader of the centrist ANO party, had acknowledged the opposition’s victory, but until Friday hinted he could still have the first stab to form a new cabinet at the head of the biggest party unique to Parliament.
Babis said he would not accept an offer to try to create a new government after his political movement narrowly lost in parliamentary elections last week and was ready to end up in opposition.
“We will hand it over to the new coalition and we will be in opposition,” he said, announcing his decision in an interview with Frekvence 1 radio quoted by CTK.
Babis’ decision paves the way for two coalitions of five parties that won a majority in the vote to govern.
A liberal-conservative tripartite coalition called Together won 27.8% of the vote on Saturday, beating Babis’ ANO (YES) party, which won 27.1%. A liberal center-left coalition received 15.6% to finish third.
The two coalitions are committed to governing jointly. They are closer to the mainstream of the European Union than the Eurosceptic Babis.
Together they won 71 of the 200 seats in the lower house of parliament and the center-left alliance won 37 seats, which would give their government a comfortable majority of 108 seats.
Babis’ NOA won 72 seats, six fewer than in the 2017 election.
President Milos Zeman, currently in hospital, had previously said he would give a mandate to the leader of the strongest party first, not the strongest coalition, which would give Babis a chance to try to put in place a viable government.
However, Zeman, 77, has not commented on it since the election as he is being treated for a complication related to an undisclosed chronic disease.
Given the lack of potential coalition partners, any cabinet led by Babis would almost certainly not win the necessary vote of confidence in the lower house, although the attempt may have extended its tenure in power by several months.
Babis’ departure after four years will resolve conflicts of interest he was accused of as the founder of an agricultural, food, chemical and media empire, Agrofert, which he invested in trust funds before becoming prime minister. He denied any wrongdoing.
Petr Fiala, the leader of Ensemble, is the candidate for the new prime minister.
Zeman will have to accept the resignation of the outgoing government after the opening session of the new lower house of parliament which begins on November 8. He will then have to choose the Prime Minister.