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Zeman gives Babiš govt. time but wants signatures of majority of MPs before second confidence vote

In an address to the Czech lower house, President Miloš Zeman called on Andrej Babiš’s ANO minority government to win support ahead of an expected second attempt to pass the vote of confidence that it requires to rule. Mr. Zeman said he would give Mr. Babiš sufficient time to try to find the necessary backing. He told deputies to look to Germany, where coalition talks have been going on for months.

The president made the comments on Wednesday morning prior to an initial vote of confidence that the ANO government were widely expected to lose as they don’t have the backing of any other grouping. Mr. Zeman had already said he would give ANO a second chance to form a government.

The head of state later said he would require a written declaration of support for a new Babiš government from at least 101 of the 200 deputies in the lower house prior to a second confidence vote.

In the lower house the president also told MPs to bear in mind the presumption of innocence. The comment was a reference to the fact that the police are seeking to charge ANO chief Babiš over the alleged abuse of EU subsidies.

Babiš sets out government priorities in lower house

Speaking ahead of the first vote of confidence in his minority government, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš set out its aims. In an almost one-hour speech to the Chamber of Deputies, the ANO chief referred to six areas, including the European Union, investment, security, the digitalisation of the state administration, pension reform and reform of the state.

Mr. Babiš said that it was nonsense to say that ANO were threatening democracy and that the party actually wished to develop it. He said his cabinet would work to improve the lives of Czech citizens and that the country had the potential to reach the first division in Europe.

ANO say church restitution must be amended

Church restitution needs to be amended, according to Prime Minister Andrej Babiš of ANO. Speaking on Wednesday, he said that was why his government was backing a Communist Party proposal to tax financial compensation for assets that were not returned to churches under a divisive restitution bill. Mr. Babiš said the financial compensation had been overinflated and approved in the lower house in strange circumstances.

The Communists have made taxing the financial compensation to churches a condition for supporting or tolerating an ANO minority government.

The leader of the Christian Democrats, Pavel Bělobrádek, said taxing the compensation would be to deny the rule of law.

Zeman calls non-Communists who resigned in 1948 “stupid”

President Miloš Zeman says the non-Communist ministers who resigned in 1948, allowing the Communists to take power, were “stupid”. He made the comment in a speech at an event at Prague Castle on Tuesday night marking the 100th anniversary of the foundation of Czechoslovakia and the 25th establishment of the foundation of the Czech Republic.

Mr. Zeman said that then Communist Party chief Alexander Dubček had “crapped himself” in fear in the face of Warsaw Pact aggression in 1968. He also said that the fall of communism in Czechoslovakia in 1989 had not been brought about by dissidents but Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who deserved respect for this.

Journalists organisation condemns Zeman spokesman over refusal to answer outlets

The Czech Syndicate of Journalists has condemned a decision by the spokesman for President Miloš Zeman not to respond to questions from the newspaper Hospodářské noviny or the news site Aktuálně.cz on the financing of the head of state’s campaign for reelection.

Spokesman Jiří Ovčáček told the media outlets to apply for the information via a law on freedom of information. He said the media group they were part of, Economia, had been spreading disinformation about Mr. Zeman for months.

New station Televize Seznam to launch Friday

The leading Czech internet company Seznam.cz is set to launch a nationwide TV station on Friday. Entitled Televize Seznam, it will be available as a classic terrestrial channel and on the internet.

Presenting the station on Wednesday, representatives said it aimed to base its product on well-known faces from the world of Czech journalism and would deliver both news and entertainment.

Weather forecast

It should be partly overcast with the chance of rain and temperatures of up to 4 degrees Celsius in the Czech Republic on Thursday. Daytime highs are not expected to fall below 0 degrees Celsius in the coming week.