Czech president confirms PM Andrej Babiš is heading for the exit

PRAGUE — Ailing Czech President Miloš Zeman said Friday that Prime Minister Andrej Babiš does not want to form the next government and he will appoint the head of the Together coalition, Petr Fiala, as the country’s next head of government.

Following a phone conversation with Babiš, Zeman — who was moved out of intensive care yesterday at the Prague Central Military Hospital told Radio Frekvence 1 from his new ward, “Andrej Babiš is not interested in becoming prime minister. The reason is simple: No one wants to negotiate with him.”

In his first public remarks since October’s tight election, the 77-year-old Zeman said the government must resign after the inaugural session of the new Chamber of Deputies, which is scheduled for November 8. Babiš agreed, Zeman said, and will submit the government’s written resignation at that time.

Fiala’s three-party, center-right SPOLU (meaning Together) bloc won a narrow victory over Babiš’ ANO movement in last month’s legislative elections and has negotiated a broad coalition agreement with the Pirate/STAN partnership to form the next government.

Zeman had said before the vote that he considered coalitions an election “scam” and would ask the head of the single party that received the most votes to form the government.

It turned out that was Babiš — but no other party wanted to go into government with him.

“For my part, I will do everything to ensure that this government is formed as soon as possible,” Zeman said, adding that, because of his illness, the meeting with Fiala would take place at the presidential residence at Lány, and not in the presidential office at the Prague Castle.

The Czech president has been hospitalized with an unspecified illness since October 10, the day after the election. His illness threatened to trigger a constitutional crisis, as Czech Senate leaders prepared to strip Zeman of his constitutional powers if he was found to be incapable of carrying out his duties.

On Friday, the council of medical specialists tracking Zeman’s condition met after each of its 10 members had examined him. Its chairman, Tomáš Zima, told journalists that the president remained unable to devote himself fully to work duties and still required hospitalization.

Zima also said that Zeman’s prognosis remained difficult to determine, casting doubt on the optimistic timeline for the new government’s formation.

However, Zeman is confident that he will be able to serve the rest of his term until 2023: “I assume that I will fulfill my duties for a year and a half and then I will retire as a happy pensioner,” he said in the interview.

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