The Czech president has appointed Bohuslav Sobotka prime minister. The move opens the possibility for the country to form a centrist Cabinet in the coming days.
On Friday, Czech President Milos Zeman appointed the Social Democrat leader prime minister after months of political stalemate sparked by a bribery and spying scandal that brought down the previous government led by Petr Necas in June. Sobotka, 42, aims to turn away from fiscal austerity policies to help the country speed up recovery from a lengthy recession, allowing the budget deficit to remain at about 3 percent of gross domestic product.
"Dear Mr. Sobotka, I congratulate you on becoming the prime minister of the Czech Republic," Zeman said at a ceremony in his Prague Castle headquarters.
Sobotka, a lawyer and former finance minister who entered politics at 25 years old, plans to return the Czech Republic to the EU mainstream after euroskeptic predecessors steered the country away. He has not set a target date for euro adoption, though he has floated the year 2020.
The prime minister aims to boost the economy by slowing the "deadly spiral" of austerity - including cuts in spending and welfare - of the former right-wing Cabinet. Sobotka wants to raise pensions and the minimum wage. But the Social Democrats' primary coalition partners, the center-right ANO - led by the billionaire businessman and future Finance Minister Andrej Babis, currently in court to fight allegations that he served as an informant for the secret police during communism - have refused any tax hikes, which would limit Sobotka's spending plans.
Zeman, who must approve Sobotka's Cabinet, has criticized some of the prime minister's candidates, but told the news agency Reuters in an interview last week that he expected to have a new government in place by the end of January.
Sobotka becomes the Czech Republic's 11th prime minister in the past 20 years.
mkg/dr (Reuters, AFP)