Czech President Says Elections to Take Place Oct. 25-26

Czech President Milos Zeman set the date of a general election for Oct. 25-26 and said it may take until year-end to form a new government, extending months of political gridlock that has paralyzed policy.

Zeman told journalists that on Aug. 28 he would verify last week’s vote by parliament to dissolve itself and wants the new assembly to hold its first session on Nov. 26. Official talks for a new administration will begin only after that, he said, leaving Zeman’s hand-picked interim cabinet, shot down by parliament in a failed confidence vote last week, in power.

Forming a new government “will be a question of some weeks, some months, or by the year end,” Zeman told journalists in Prague after he met with party leaders.

Since an illegal spying and graft scandal toppled former Prime Minister Petr Necas’s pro-austerity government in June, lawmakers have been embroiled in political turmoil that has blocked discussions on the 2014 budget and other measures that could potentially help the country of 10.5 million people recover from a record-long recession that ended last quarter.

The koruna advanced for a fourth day, gaining 0.1 percent to 25.676 per euro by 5:33 p.m. in Prague. The currency earlier today touched its strongest intraday level in two months.

‘Personal Power’

By waiting the full 30 days after the election to convene parliament allowed under the constitution, Zeman is virtually ensuring the country will begin next year with a provisional spending plan and may fuel a perception that as the Czechs’ first directly elected president, he’s reshaping the post to take more power, said Bohumil Dolezal, an independent political analyst in Prague.

“If there is a month with a provisional budget, it’s not such a disaster. The main thing is political, this way the president is strengthening his personal power,” Dolezal said by phone. “It decidedly opens up new opportunities for the authoritative way of governing that Zeman is doing.”

Zeman has drawn criticism from Necas’s Civic Democrats and newspapers such as daily Mlada Fronta Dnes for what they say is a tendency to interpret the constitution in a way to benefit himself and politicians he is close to.

He snubbed the three-party coalition that had backed Necas and wanted to stay in power in July by naming an ally, Jiri Rusnok, to lead the interim government, which failed to win the confidence motion last week.

Increase Spending

The former opposition Social Democrats, who polls favor to win the election say they will increase spending to ensure the economy does not slip back into recession. The party’s support fell to 21 percent this month, compared with 29 percent in June, according to results from a PPM Factum poll released on Aug. 19.

The pro-austerity TOP09 party was in second place with 10 percent. The Communists, boosted by voter frustration at the former governnment’s focus on cutting the budget deficit, fell to third place with 9 percent, from 16 percent in June.

Necas’s Civic Democrats were in fourth place with 6 percent, according to the poll conducted among 1,002 respondents from Aug. 12-16. A margin of error was not provided.

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