Czech president appoints new finance minister, ends political crisis | News | DW | 24.05.2017
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Czech president appoints new finance minister, ends political crisis

A political crisis in the Czech Republic has been resolved with the replacement of Finance Minister Andrej Babis - one of the country's richest people. Babis' ANO party is expected to win October elections.

Tschechien Prag Demonstration gegen Babis and Präsident Zeman (Protest, Proteste, Demonstrationen, Demonstranten, )

Protesters demonstrate against Babis and Zeman on May 10

Czech President Milos Zeman replaced Finance Minister Andrej Babis on Wednesday, ending a months-long political crisis ahead of elections later this year.

Ivan Pilny will take over the Finance Ministry after Babis himself suggested the former Microsoft executive for the Czech Republic be appointed to the position in order to end a political spat with Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka. 

Tschechien | Ministerpräsident Sobotka kündigt seinen Rücktritt an (REUTERS/D. W. Cerny)

Czech PM Sobotka (r.) with now ex-Finance Minister Babis (l.) at an extraordinary parliamentary session in March

Babis is the billionaire founder of the centrist ANO party, which is in a coalition with Sobotka's Social Democrats. Pilny is an ANO lawmaker.

Sobotka has accused Babis of avoiding tax by purchasing tax-free bonds for his chemicals and food conglomerate Agrofert.

Ranked by Forbes as the Czech Republic's second-richest person, Babis put his company into a trust earlier this year to comply with a new conflict of interest law. He also owns several media companies and has come under pressure over leaked recorded conversations alleged to show him pressuring a journalist to attack his rivals. He denies both allegations.

Ivan Pilny - Tschechiens neuer Finanzminister (picture-alliance/dpa/CTK/K. Sulova)

Newly appointed Finance Minister Ivan Pilny

Sobotka earlier this month said he would resign along with his entire government in order to remove Babis. But he reversed his decision after Zeman said he would only appoint a new prime minister and not dissolve the entire Cabinet, including Babis.

The prime minister then sought only his finance minister's removal, but Zeman declined to remove Babis, who also refused to resign.

But after weeks of coalition infighting and the potential for the issue to wind up in the courts, Babis proposed his ally Pilny as a replacement to end the standoff. 

ANO is expected to win October elections ahead of the Social Democrats.

cw/kl (AFP, dpa, Reuters)


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