Czech minority government wins confidence vote

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PRAGUE, July 12, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – The minority government of billionaire Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis won a parliamentary confidence vote Thursday, becoming the first administration since the 1989 collapse of communism to rely on backing from the Communist Party.

“The parliament has voiced confidence in the cabinet,” parliament speaker Radek Vondracek said after a marathon session lasting more than 16 hours.

A total of 105 lawmakers out of 196 present in the 200-seat parliament voted in favour of Babis’s minority cabinet, while 91 were against.

It took Babis nine months to form a cabinet after he won last October’s election, with potential partners initially shunning him over his murky past and allegations of EU subsidy fraud.

He finally struck a minority coalition deal with the Social Democrats in June, but with just 93 seats in the 200-member parliament they must rely on backing from the Communist Party, which controls 15 seats.

The staunchly pro-Russian and anti-NATO Communists pledged to back Babis in exchange for positions in state-owned enterprises, giving them a role in government, albeit an informal one, for the first time since the Communist regime fell in the former Czechoslovakia.

“This situation is brand new, it’s a shift,” Tomas Lebeda, a political analyst from Palacky University in the eastern city of Olomouc, told AFP.

“But it’s not a revolution. The Communists have experience with such support and even governing on the regional and municipal level,” he added.

Several hundred protesters gathered outside parliament on Wednesday to protest against the Communist Party, echoing larger protests across the EU country in June.

When Babis walked out to meet the protesters, he was booed back into the parliament building. Media said some protesters threw plastic bottles at him.

Lebeda said he expected the cabinet to enjoy “basic stability for some time”.

“But a minority cabinet is always less stable, and this is also a coalition cabinet. Its stability won’t be too great,” he added.

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