Czech defense minister fired after one week in post

PRAGUE Thu Dec 20, 2012 10:01am EST

Karolina Peake, the leader of a breakaway faction from an expelled coalition party that continues to support the cabinet, arrives to attend a parliamentary confidence vote, in Prague April 27, 2012. REUTERS/Petr Josek

Karolina Peake, the leader of a breakaway faction from an expelled coalition party that continues to support the cabinet, arrives to attend a parliamentary confidence vote, in Prague April 27, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Petr Josek

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PRAGUE (Reuters) - Czech President Vaclav Klaus dismissed the country's Defence Minister Karolina Peake on Thursday just a week after she took office, igniting a fresh row among the shaky center-right coalition that could threaten the cabinet's survival.

Since her appointment on December 12, Peake has dismissed a number of top officials at the NATO member country's Defence Ministry, which has been at the center of a series of corruption investigations.

Prime Minister Petr Necas, who requested Peake be dismissed as defense minister, has criticized her decision to sack the officials. She will remain as deputy prime minister in the center-right cabinet, which held its weekly meeting on Thursday.

Peake was not immediately available for comment and Necas gave no reason for the dismissal in a statement announcing she would leave her post.

Peake is the head of the smallest coalition member, the centrist party LIDEM, whose support is key for Necas to survive in parliament.

With 98 out of 200 seats in the lower house, the government must rely on independent deputies, making it vulnerable to any confidence votes called by the opposition leftist Social Democrats, who hold a commanding lead in the polls.

It was able to push through the 2013 budget and a series of tax hikes with the help of a handful of independent deputies on Wednesday.

In April, Peake helped Necas overcome a confidence vote when she broke away from an original coalition member, the Public Affairs party. The party imploded that month after Necas kicked it out of the government following a corruption scandal.

Peake then led a splinter group and founded a new party to secure Necas a majority of votes in the lower house.

(Reporting by Jan Lopatka; Editing by Sophie Hares)

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