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Czech party head says he should hold two jobs in coalition

Source: Reuters - Sun, 22 Dec 2013 04:19 PM
Author: Reuters
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(Adds date of coalition agreement signing in paragraph 6)

PRAGUE, Dec 22 (Reuters) - The leader of one of the Czech parties negotiating to form a coalition government said on Sunday he should hold two positions in the new government, as finance minister and as vice premier.

ANO party chairman Andrej Babis said on Sunday he should get the two positions, which would give his party one less member in the proposed cabinet than it had first sought. The distribution of ministries has yet to be agreed by the coalition.

The Social Democrats, led by the prospective prime minister, Bohuslav Sobotka, are slated to have eight members. The Social Democrats won the most votes in an October snap election after a bribery and spying scandal brought down the Czech Republic's centre-right coalition in June.

ANO would get six positions, rather than the seven it had originally sought, Babis said. The third party, the Christian Democrats, agreed on Saturday to take three positions in the proposed government, including the Agriculture Ministry, which it had asked for.

"We will be six (members of government), because I should be the vice-prime minister and finance minister," Babis said on Czech television.

Sobotka said the parties would sign the coalition agreement on Jan. 6, which was also the date the final list of nominees should be ready.

"Then I will inform the president," Sobotka told reporters after meeting his counterparts.

President Milos Zeman, a former Social Democratic prime minister, has said repeatedly he wants to take an active part in the formation of the coalition - a final potential hurdle to forming a new government.

Babis, 59, who owns chemicals and media companies worth $2 billion (1.2 billion pounds) according to Forbes magazine, won 18.7 percent of the vote in October's election, despite his widely reported past under Communist rule.

He was a Communist Party member but denies having been an informant for the Statni bezpecnost (StB), the Czechoslovak secret police. He admits only to having met agents when he worked for a trading firm in the 1980s.

The three parties, who hold 111 out of 200 seats in parliament, have already agreed on their policy programme. They have pledged to keep budget deficits below the EU's limit of 3 percent of gross domestic product while trying to boost growth.

The Czech Republic is being run now by a caretaker government, which lacks a mandate to push through any major legislation as the economy tries to recover from a record-length recession. (Reporting by Robert Muller; Editing by Larry King)

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