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Czech PM wins vote of confidence with Communist support

The minority government of Prime Minister Andrej Babiš won a parliamentary confidence vote in the early hours of Thursday, following a contentious 15-hour session.

Mr Babiš’s new government is the first since 1989 to cooperate with the staunchly pro-Russian and anti-NATO Communists, who pledged to back him in exchange for positions in state-owned enterprises and policy concessions.

His centrist ANO party won nearly 30 per cent of the vote in the October general election, but many parties refused to work with him, as he faces fraud charges for allegedly misappropriating EU funds some 10 years ago.

In June, after months of wrangling, the Social Democrats formally agreed to form a coalition with ANO. Together they have 93 seats in the 200-member parliament, so Mr Babiš had to rely on the backing of the Communists, who have 15 seats, to win the confidence vote. In the end, the government received 105 votes.

Mr Babiš’s first minority government lost a confidence vote in January, after which he was invited by President Miloš Zeman to make a second attempt.

Opposition: Communist-backed government spells end of era

The creation of a coalition government of ANO and the Social Democrats supported by the Communists represents the end of an era for the Czech Republic, say some opposition politicians. The government passed the necessary vote of confidence in the lower house in the early hours of Thursday.

Karel Schwarzenberg of TOP 09 said the republic created in 1993 had now been replaced by an idiosyncratic, strong-leader style democracy shaped by Prime Minister Andrej Babiš.

Petr Fiala, the leader of the Civic Democrats, said the new government was “half-communist” and would do nothing for the country. Christian Democrats’ chief Pavel Bělobrádek said that the first Czech Republic had come to an end and a new one had begun.

The Communist Party’s support for the minority coalition gives the party their first share of power since 1989.

Kalousek demands apology from Babiš over drunkenness accusation

The head of the TOP 09 deputies group, Miroslav Kalousek, has called on ANO chief Andrej Babiš to apologise for accusing him of drunkenness. During a break from Wednesday evening’s session of the lower house Prime Minister Babiš said that Mr. Kalousek was plastered and also a thief.

The TOP 09 politician said he hoped the ANO leader would apologise, in which case he would cease considering legal action over the statements.

Mr. Kalousek had accused Mr. Babiš of not being manly for withdrawing to the lower house when his intention of speaking to demonstrators outside Parliament was thwarted by missiles being thrown from the crowd.

Brussels cuts forecast for Czech growth this and next year

The European Commission has revised downward its forecast for the growth of the Czech economy this year and in 2018. According to its latest prognosis, Czech gross domestic product should expand by 3.0 percent this year and 2.9 percent next year. An earlier forecast had suggested growth of 3.4 percent in 2018 and 3.1 percent in 2019.

The European Commission also issued less positive growth predictions for the Eurozone and the European Union as a whole on Thursday.

Uber agrees to use EET system, operate licensed service

Transport services providers, including the app-based “ride-sharing” company Uber, will have to register their revenue using electronic cash registers as of this autumn. Uber CEO Alexei Stakh signed a new tax memorandum on Thursday committing the company to using the system, known by its Czech acronym EET. However, only new Uber drivers will be required to do so.

In April, Uber also committed to operating a licensed service in the Czech Republic, thereby putting the company on an equal footing with traditional taxi companies, as its drivers will have to register with the appropriate authorities and have their earnings taxed.

Church head Duka files lawsuit over controversial plays

The head of the Czech Roman Catholic Church, Cardinal Dominik Duka, has filed a lawsuit over a pair of theatre plays staged in Brno in May, the newspaper Lidové noviny reported on Thursday. The joint production of the plays Our Violence, Your Violence and The Curse included a scene in which Jesus rapes a Muslim woman as well as a depiction of Pope John Paul II in a state of tumescence.

Protests also took place at the theatre itself during the plays, which were directed by Oliver Frljic from Croatia.

Cardinal Duka says that the theatre show represented an attack on his rights guaranteed by the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms. He referred specifically to the inalienability of rights, freedom of religion and the right to dignity and honour. The prelate filed the lawsuit as a private individual.

Weather forecast

It should be mainly bright in the Czech Republic on Friday, with temperatures of up to 25 degrees Celsius. Similar weather is expected at the weekend and the start of next week.