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Czech Republic: Petr Fiala named new prime minister

After weeks of delay due to President Zeman's health problems, Petr Fiala has been named the new prime minister. The center-right leader is replacing billionaire populist Andrej Babis.

Czech President Milos Zeman, right, in a transparent cube because he tested positive to COVID-19, appoints ODS leader Petr Fiala, left, as Czech Prime Minister

Petr Fiala has become the new Czech prime minister

Czech President Milos Zeman named Petr Fiala as the prime minister of the Czech Republic on Sunday following Fiala's electoral win in October.

Fiala leads a center-right coalition and was able to oust the outgoing populist Prime Minister Andrej Babis with the support of several left-wing parties.

Zeman left the hospital on Saturday after being treated for health problems. He also recently tested positive for COVID-19 and was thus separated from Fiala by plexiglass during the ceremony at Zeman's residence near the capital, Prague.

"I am convinced we will soon have a strong and stable government," Fiala said at the ceremony.

Parties team up against Babis

Fiala, 57, heads the three-party coalition Together (Civic Democratic Party, Christian Democrats, TOP 09 party), which garnered 27.8% of the vote in early October.

The alliance narrowly defeated the ANO movement led by billionaire Babis.

Leaders of the Together coalition, with Petr Fiala front and center

Right-wing, centrist and left-of-center parties teamed up to get rid of the scandal-ridden leader of the ANO movement

The centrist group of the Mayors and Independents and the left-wing Pirate Party joined with Fiala's coalition to remove Babis, who had served as prime minister since 2017.

The president would normally mediate post-election talks, but Zeman's hospitalization — he was being treated for liver problems — forced his absence.

Zeman, 77, was taken to hospital on October 10, a day after the election. He was initially released this past Thursday, with the expectation that he would appoint Fiala the following day. But he was then rushed back to the hospital after testing positive for coronavirus.

COVID causes disruption

The Czech Republic is facing daily record infections of the virus. The outgoing government brought in a raft of new measures on Thursday, including the nighttime closure of restaurants, bars and clubs. It also shut down all Christmas markets.

Many Czech hospitals are already at full capacity, and experts have warned that stricter measures need to be introduced to bring the numbers down.

Not only will the new government have to tackle a record wave of infections, but also soaring inflation and energy costs which have cast a shadow over the country in the run-up to Christmas.

Watch video 02:27

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ab/wmr (Reuters, AFP)