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Czech government survives confidence vote on tax

The Czech Republic’s center-right government has survived a taxation vote that turned into a "no-confidence" motion. Rebels from the prime minister’s own party eventually backed down, fearing a snap election.

Lawmakers approved a 1 percent increase in sales tax on retail goods and a 7 percent increase in taxes for the highest earners by 101 votes to 93 on Wednesday.

"This vote confirmed confidence in the government," Prime Minister Petr Necas said.

The bill, aimed at helping to bring the country's budget deficit below 3 percent of GDP, was originally rejected in September. Six members of Necas' Civic Democrat (ODS) party had said the measures went against their center-right principles.

Necas resubmitted the plans, stipulating that the passage of the measures was tantamount to a vote of confidence in the government. The bill's way was eased by the resignation of three members of the rebels and the agreement of others to abstain or vote with the government.

A failure to win the vote would have led to the fall of the government and snap elections. Polling suggests that the left-wing Social Democrats would have won, to be propped up by delegates from the Communist party.

"We don't want the government to fall and the Communists to take power," delegate Petr Tluchor said.

Necas' three-party coalition has suffered a number of defections and currently needs votes from independents to pass legislation.

His government's focus on austerity has reduced the country's borrowing costs but led to low domestic demand for products, with the economy in recession since late 2011.

rc/mkg (AFP, Reuters, dpa)