Czech Republic in post-vote limbo after President fell ill

Czech Republic in post-vote limbo after President fell ill

The Czech Republic was left in limbo after President Milos Zeman was rushed to hospital a day after his ally, billionaire populist Prime Minister Andrej Babis, suffered a shock defeat in the general election of the country.
The 77-year-old president, who plays a pivotal role in the appointment of any future prime minister, was taken to hospital by ambulance shortly after meeting Babis and appeared to be unconscious upon his arrival, with someone seen holding the head.

Miroslav Zavoral, director of the Prague Central Military Hospital, said the president, who has liver problems according to local media and uses a wheelchair due to neuropathy in his legs, has been admitted due to complications from an undisclosed chronic disease.

“We know the precise diagnosis, which allows us to target treatment,” Zavoral said, adding that he did not have the president’s approval to release details of the diagnosis. He did not give further details on Zeman’s condition.

In the Czech Republic, the president is holding talks with party leaders after the elections to find a viable majority. Under the constitution, his authority to appoint the prime minister passes to the president of the lower house in the event of a vacancy in the presidential office.

Babis’s centrist ANO party narrowly lost the legislative elections held on Friday and Saturday to the center-right coalition Ensemble.

Together and the liberal Pirates / Mayors coalition won 108 seats in the 200-seat lower house and said they intended to form a government.

However, while Babis conceded that Ensemble won more votes as a coalition, he still hopes to retain power, saying: “If the president allows me to do so, I will lead the talks on forming a coalition. cabinet.

The president, who is in a wheelchair, voted in his official residence due to health concerns less than a month after spending eight nights in the military hospital.

A blow to populism

Under the constitution, the president can appoint anyone as prime minister and ask them to appoint a cabinet, which then faces a vote of confidence in the lower house within one month of being appointed.

Zeman had said ahead of the election that he would nominate the leader of the largest individual winning party, not a coalition, to try to form a government.

It would be Babis, since ANO won the most votes of all parties.

Zeman, a 67-year-old Babis ally, has not commented on his next steps since the election results.

Petr Fiala (center), leader of the Civic Party (ODS) and candidate of the Ensemble Coalition (SPOLU) for Prime Minister, speaks during a press conference during the election event of the SPOLU movement in Prague after the coalition narrowly won the election [Stringer/EPA]

The formation of a government usually takes weeks or months, and no appointment is possible until the meeting of the new lower house, sometime in the month following the election.

Babis currently heads a minority government with the Social Democrats, which until recently was tacitly supported by the Communist Party which ruled the former Czechoslovakia from 1948 to 1989.

But the Communists and Social Democrats failed to secure enough votes to enter parliament.

Analysts saw the election result as a blow to populism.

“This is a victory not only for the Czech Republic, but for all of Europe,” Jiri Priban from Cardiff Law School told Czech TV.

“It is proof that even if the populists cannot be entirely defeated, their advance can be stopped and reversed,” he added.

Babis, a food, chemicals and media mogul, faces police charges over alleged fraud of EU subsidies and dismay from the bloc over his conflict of interest as a man businessman and politician.

Last weekend, Pandora Papers’ investigation showed that it had used money from its offshore companies to finance the purchase of property in the south of France in 2009, including a castle.

He denied any wrongdoing and condemned the allegations as a smear campaign.


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