Czech Republic: Petr Fiala appointed Prime Minister

Former political science professor Petr Fiala, 57, was appointed Prime Minister of the Czech Republic by President Milos Zeman on Sunday, November 28. Mr. Fiala chairs the right-wing Civic Democratic Party (ODS), which in the Ensemble alliance, also comprising the Christian Democrats and the center-right TOP 09 party, won the legislative elections in October.

“I am convinced that we will soon have a strong and stable government”, assured Petr Fiala, during an unusual ceremony, during which President Zeman, in a wheelchair and suffering from Covid-19, was protected by a plastic barrier. Milos Zeman stressed that he intends to meet with future ministers by December 13, “To prepare from that date the designation of the government”.

The Ensemble alliance narrowly defeated the populist ANO movement of outgoing billionaire prime minister Andrej Babis and then teamed up with two other centrist parties: the anti-establishment Pirate Party and the Mayors and Independents. The five parties control 108 seats, out of a total of 200, in Parliament.

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Covid-19 and the energy crisis

The new government will have to tackle two urgent problems: the crisis linked to Covid-19, while a new wave of contamination threatens to overwhelm the hospital system, and an energy crisis, after the bankruptcy of a large electricity supplier.

Mr Zeman, a 77-year-old pro-Russian and pro-Chinese leftist politician, was originally due to appoint Mr Fiala last Friday, the day after he was released from the military hospital in Prague. However, he returned to the hospital the same day he was discharged, Thursday, after testing positive for Covid-19. He finally left the hospital on Saturday.

Mr Zeman originally wanted to appoint his ally Mr Babis as prime minister, but the food, chemicals and media mogul, accused of fraud on EU subsidies, has said shortly after the election he would turn down an offer to form the new government and join the opposition.

According to Fiala, the president is expected to appoint the government by mid-December. A member of the EU, the Czech Republic, with a population of 10.7 million, struggles with one of the highest rates of Covid-19 infection in the world.

The country on Thursday recorded a record 27,717 new cases, and its hospitals lack capacity to treat the sick. Some hospitals have started moving patients to less crowded facilities and delaying scheduled surgeries. The Czech Republic is also grappling with unprecedented growth in energy prices and skyrocketing inflation.

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The World with AFP