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Czech cabinet resigns after losing confidence vote

18 January 2018

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis on Wednesday announced at a press conference the resignation of his minority government, a day after it failed to gain the confidence of the Chamber of Deputies.

Any new Czech government must seek a confidence vote within 30 days of taking office, and Babis' defeat - by 117 to 78 votes - was widely expected after all eight other parties in parliament said they would vote against.

"The ball is in ANO's court", Petr Fiala, chairman of the second-strongest party in parliament, the Civic Democrats, told reporters after the confidence vote on Tuesday. Czech President Milos Zeman has said that he will appoint Mr Babis as premier again. The current one will hold power until its replacement is named.

Babis said the talks with other parties will start later on Wednesday.

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Under the constitution, the president has two attempts to decide who will form the government, leaving the third and final try to the parliament speaker, who is a member of Babis's ANO (YES) movement.

Nearly three months after Czech billionaire Andrej Babis' party dominated elections without winning an outright majority, his government quit after failing to secure approval in parliament because of concerns he may be charged over alleged fraud. He will face a challenger Jiri Drahos, who is running on a pro-EU platform, in the second round run-off on January 26-27.

Babis, his wife and grown children as well as several co-workers were charged with fraud before the election, but he regained immunity from prosecution after being re-elected.

The second richest man in the Czech Republic, Babis is the owner of Agrofert, a food, farming, chemical and media conglomerate and the country's biggest employer.

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ANO is the parliament's largest party yet makes up a minority government due to the fact that it has been unable to find coalition partners.

Babis has consistently denied allegations that he hid his ownership of a small farm and conference center to illegally receive €2 million ($2.4 million) in European Union subsidies.

However, Czech police have requested Babis' immunity to be lifted, a course of action a parliamentary committee also recommended earlier on Tuesday.

"There are many mathematical possibilities to form a majority government, but somebody will have to let go of their requirements, and I am afraid that at least Mr. Babis and President Zeman will not budge", said Otto Eibl, a political analyst from Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic. "This plot was organized by the mafia that had been stealing billions here for a long time".

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Czech cabinet resigns after losing confidence vote