Czech Premier Sobotka Quits After Row With Finance Minister
The Czech prime minister, Bohuslav Sobotka of the Social Democrats, says he plans to inform the president of the resignation of his government by the end of the week. Making the surprise announcement on Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Sobotka blamed the situation on ANO’s Andrej Babiš, who he said could not remain in the post of minister of finance, Radio Praha reported, qoted by Focus News Agency.
The prime minister said that Mr. Babiš had for several months failed to clear up questions surrounding financial transactions with which he has been involved. Mr. Sobotka told reporters that if he had dismissed Mr. Babiš he would have presented himself as a “martyr”.
The ANO chief and billionaire is accused by critics of purchasing crown bonds whose revenue is not taxable from his company Agrofert and other financial improprieties. Mr. Babiš said a letter he had written clarified the situation, but Mr. Sobotka said his explanations had been unacceptable and questions remained as to whether he had committed tax evasion.
The prime minister said that if the government resigned the coalition parties could hold talks on forming a new cabinet. However, that would involve resolving outstanding issues surrounding Mr. Babiš to bring an end to conflicts of interest. Otherwise, the parties could work toward calling new elections, he said.
For his part, Andrej Babiš told journalists he had been surprised by the PM’s announcement, described it as the desperate act of a desperate man. He said the best solution would be for the government to serve out its term as a government in resignation.
Regular elections are planned for October and polls put Mr. Babiš’s ANO some way ahead of the PM’s Social Democrats.
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