Andrej Babis Appointed Prime Minister – Takes Oath, Readies for Brussels EU Summit

Prague, Dec 6 (CTK) – President Milos Zeman appointed ANO movement’s leader Andrej Babis as the new Czech prime minister and Babis then took the prime minister’s oath today.


Zeman plans to appoint the new government next Wednesday, 53 days after the general election.


Babis said he wants to inaugurate as many of the new ministers as possible on the same day so that they can start working immediately. Other ministers will be inaugurated the following week because Babis is going to represent the country at a European Union summit in Brussels on Thursday and Friday.


He said the first meeting of his cabinet would be held on Wednesday evening and name its spokesperson and the head of the Government Office.


Babis said prime minister in resignation, Bohuslav Sobotka (Social Democrats, CSSD), told him that he was ready to hand the Government Office over to him. This will happen after the new government has been appointed, he said.


Babis said the forthcoming EU summit was crucial. He said the Czech Republic should be more active in the EU. He said he wants to negotiate with the European Commission about the Czech rejection of the quotas for redistribution of asylum seekers.


He wants to avoid the EC filing a complaint against the country over the issue. In migration, the EU should focus on fighting people traffickers rather than the quotas, he said.


Babis said one of his priorities is that the lower house pass the 2018 state budget by the end of the year to avoid a stop-gap budget.


Zeman said today Babis should get ready for the stepping up of the campaign that a part of the Czech media wage against him.


Babis is a billionaire who had to transfer his huge Agrofert concern, including chemical, food-processing and agricultural firms and media outlets, to trust funds earlier this year. He said he wants to run the country like a business. His opponents say he fully controls ANO and concentrates too much power in his hands.


Babis wants to form a minority cabinet including ANO politicians and unaffiliated experts. However, no party in the lower house of Czech parliament has promised to support his government in the vote of confidence yet.


Zeman said he would take part in the lower house session taking a vote of confidence in order to back Babis’s government.


Four years ago, Zeman delivered a speech in support of Sobotka’s government before the confidence vote in the lower house.


The new cabinet is to have 15 members and include nine newcomers, five ANO ministers who are part of the outgoing centre-left government and Babis who was finance minister until May.


Zeman plans to meet each of the newcomers by December 13.


Outgoing Environment Minister Richard Brabec, Justice Minister Robert Pelikan and Transport Minister Dan Tok will keep their posts, while outgoing Regional Development Minister Karla Slechtova will become defence minister and outgoing Defence Minister Martin Stropnicky (all ANO) will be the new Czech diplomacy chief.


Babis said he plans to negotiate with the other parties in parliament about their support for his minority cabinet. He dismissed the view that ANO has made a pact with the Communists (KSCM) and the Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD).


Some parties argued that ANO joined forces with the two extremist parties in all key votes held in the lower house in the past two weeks.


Babis said his government would ask the other parties to support or tolerate his cabinet and negotiate with them shortly before Christmas and after the New Year’s Day.


He said some time ago he believed other parties would support his government because of its programme.


Only the Communists have indicated that they could support Babis’s government under certain conditions so far.


Zeman said previously he would entrust Babis with forming the new government again if his current attempt to win the lower house’s support failed.


A confidence vote in the new government must be held within 30 days after the government’s appointment. The deadline will expire shortly before the first round of the direct presidential election in which Zeman is defending his post. The government cannot rule the country for a long time without winning the confidence vote.