Czech center-right, centrist parties reach agreement on government, key program

Czech Prime Minister and ANO party leader Andrej Babis attends a press conference at the party’s electoral headquarters following the country’s parliamentary elections in Prague, Czech Republic, October 9, 2021. REUTERS / Bernadett Szabo

PRAGUE, November 2 (Reuters) – The Czech centrist and center-right parties have reached an agreement on the formation of a majority coalition government and its key platform, the chairman of the strongest party in the country said on Tuesday. the new coalition.

The five-party coalition faces high inflation, growing debt, an economy hampered by a global semiconductor shortage and skyrocketing energy prices, and a resurgent COVID-19 pandemic that has accelerated in recent weeks.

Petr Fiala, president of the Civic Democrats (ODS) and future prime minister, said the parties have agreed on the distribution of government posts among themselves, although he did not name the individual candidates.

“We have been through a whole long day, but also fruitful negotiations,” Fiala said in a televised briefing after talks that lasted more than 12 hours.

“We came to an agreement on our coalition treaty, we also agreed on our coalition program,” he said.

The parties, grouped into two coalitions, won 108 seats in the 200-seat lower house of parliament in the October 8-9 elections, defeating current Prime Minister Andrej Babis, whose main allies were ousted from parliament. Read more

One of the main tasks of the coalition in formation is the state of public finances, hit by the pandemic and the measures intended to contain it, as well as the generous spending of the outgoing government which increased the pensions and salaries of employees of the the state, while passing a significant tax. cuts. Read more

The finance ministry, which sees this year’s budget gap at 7.7 percent of gross domestic product, has proposed a 2022 central budget with a deficit of 377 billion crowns ($ 17.09 billion), larger than the end result of 2020 when the pandemic struck.

The new coalition has said it wants to change the budget, which could result in interim funding early next year, given the limited time left to approve substantial changes before the end of this year.

Despite their relatively quick agreement, government formation could still take some time, as key player President Milos Zeman has been hospitalized since October 10 with virtually no information on his condition.

Fiala said he was informed by the president’s chief of staff that Zeman was ready to meet with him once he was transferred from intensive care, but he did not give further details.

($ 1 = 22.0600 Czech crowns)

Report by Robert Muller; edited by Chris Reese and Richard Pullin

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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