Czech President Opposes Nominees for Cabinet Ministers

Czech President Milos Zeman set a condition for naming the country’s new government and wants changes to the lineup of ministers proposed by future Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka.

Zeman will appoint Social Democrat leader Sobotka as premier on Jan. 17, he told reporters at Prague castle today. The president said he may name the full cabinet by the end of the month if the three parties that signed a coalition pact this week endorse a bill on civil servants before then.

“I set a clear condition, and that is the approval of the law on civil service,” Zeman said. “We can discuss alternatives” to some candidates proposed by Sobotka “and this discussion should take place between the appointment of the prime minister and the naming of the cabinet,” he said.

Buoyed by a 2013 ballot victory making him the country’s first directly elected president, Zeman has clashed with lawmakers to carve out a new role for the head of state that has traditionally been seen as a ceremonial post. In June, he snubbed political parties by naming his own technocrat cabinet without backing in parliament.

His demand for a new civil-service law would remove the requirement for a ministerial candidate to obtain proof he or she didn’t cooperate with the communist-era secret police, Zeman said. Billionaire Andrej Babis -- the head of the coalition ANO party and candidate for finance minister -- doesn’t have that vetting, and is fighting allegations in court in neighboring Slovakia that he was a secret-police informant.

Zeman didn’t mention any ministerial candidates he opposed by name. While he said the constitution gave the president the right to reject a nominee proposed by the premier, he didn’t say whether he would block Sobotka’s picks.

Sobotka’s coalition with ANO and the Christian Democrats wants to revive economic growth after the longest recession on record. The Social Democrat leader will become the eighth Czech prime minister in the past decade. He has pledged to boost state spending in pensions, infrastructure and other areas.

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