Politicians in the Czech Republic have signed an agreement to form a center-left coalition and cabinet. It follows early elections in October, called after the previous government fell in a corruption and spying scandal.
The center-left coalition, led by the election winners, the Social Democrats under Bohuslav Sobotka (pictured above, center), also includes the new political party ANO, led by billionaire businessman Andrej Babis (above left), and the centrist Christian Democrats led by Pavel Belobradek (right).
The coalition, in which Sobotka, 42, would become prime minister, would have a majority of 111 seats in the 200-seat parliament. He pledged "a change for the better, support for economic growth and employment."
The agreement to form a new government for the Czech Republic, a European Union member with 10.5 million citizens, follows six months of political turmoil in the country.
Spying and corruption scandal
The former center-right-led parliament was dissolved and a snap election held in October after then-Prime Minister Petr Necas stepped down in June following a police raid amid a spying and corruption scandal. Necas' top aide Jana Nagyoya, who was also his lover and to whom he is now married, was charged with bribery and abuse of power.
The country's first-ever directly elected president, Milos Zeman, named a cabinet led by his left-wing ally Jiri Rusnok, which lost a confidence vote in parliament in August. Elections scheduled for May 2014 were brought forward.
It will now be up to Zeman to approve the cabinet ministers and name the prime minister, a process which may not be straightforward because he has previously signaled that he may reject some of Sobotka's choices for ministerial positions.
Sobotka insisted there was "no reason for the president to put off" his appointment as prime minister. Under the coalition deal, Babis, who owns 200 companies, would be finance minister.
The Czech Republic is dependent on exports to the eurozone, as well as car production. In the second quarter of 2013 it exited a record 18-month-long recession.
se/pfd (Reuters, AFP, AP)