Czech Ruling Coalition Overcomes Smoking-Ban Row With New Bill

The Czech governing coalition agreed to discuss a new bill banning smoking in restaurants, overcoming a dispute that erupted after a group of ruling lawmakers voted with the opposition to reject the legislation in parliament this week.

The cabinet will debate the new draft law at a meeting on Monday and submit it to the assembly with a request for fast-track procedure, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said in a televised news conference after an emergency meeting of the three coalition parties on Friday.

The bill’s failure to pass on Wednesday sparked tensions in the coalition, with parties accusing each other of breaking their ruling pact. Sobotka said the ruling grouping must improve communication if the parties have last-minute objections to laws put up for vote.

“I asked the parties to clearly declare if they have have a problem with some lethal amendments that could threaten the approval of an entire government draft law,” Sobotka said. “They should inform the designated minister and the other coalition parties so that there’s time to discuss the issues.”

For the story on the smoking-ban failure, click here.

The law’s unexpected failure was a disappointment to a majority of Czechs supporting a smoking ban and underscored the animosity between the pro-business ANO party, led by billionaire Finance Minister Andrej Babis, and Sobotka’s Social Democrats. The government leaders are preparing to start talks on the 2017 state budget on Monday and their factions are also positioning for October regional elections, with polls showing ANO ahead of Sobotka’s party by several percentage points.

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