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Czech PM Andrej Babis wins vote of confidence after months of wrangling

Czech PM Andrej Babis wins vote of confidence after months of wrangling
Czech PM Andrej Babis wins vote of confidence after months of wrangling. Reuters/M. Kammermayer
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The new minority government in the Czech Republic headed by billionaire Prime Minister Andrej Babis won a parliamentary confidence vote in the early hours of Thursday. His coalition had to rely on the backing of the country's Communist Party, becoming the first Czech government since the 1989 collapse of communism to do so.

"The parliament has voiced confidence in the cabinet," said parliamentary speaker Radek Vondracek.

It has been a rocky road for the populist Babis since his centrist ANO (YES) party won the most votes in the Czech general election in October. His first minority government lost a confidence vote in January, after which he was invited to take a second stab at forming a government by President Milos Zeman.

In June, ANO and the Social Democrats were able to strike a coalition deal, but that still left them with only 93 seats in the 200-member parliament, necessitating the support of the Communists, who have 15 seats.

Babis had to make major concessions to secure their support, including giving them key positions in state-owned enterprises and an informal role in his government.

The Communists agreed to back the new administration even though Babis, who has been a caretaker prime minister since his first attempt to win confidence for a one-party cabinet failed, refused some of their demands, including calls for cutbacks in the Czech contribution to NATO military missions abroad.

Protesters shout down Babis

Several hundred protesters gathered outside parliament in Prague on Wednesday to demonstrate against the involvement of the Communist Party, and when Babis attempted to come outside and address the crowd, he was quickly booed back inside.

Babis is not only unpopular with those who haven't forgotten the scars of the country's communist past. It has taken nine months to form a government largely because many parties have refused to work with him, as he faces fraud charges related to allegedly misappropriating millions in EU funds 10 years ago.

Babis has repeatedly said he would keep the Czech Republic on a pro-Western course and avoid the kind of spats over checks and balances that has landed neighboring Poland and Hungary in conflict with Brussels.

es/sms (AP, AFP)

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