Czech coalition partner backs Nemcova as PM candidate

PRAGUE Fri Jun 21, 2013 4:12pm EDT

Czech Republic's speaker of the lower house of parliament and Deputy Chairman of ODS Miroslava Nemcova (L) and Industry and Trade Minister and acting Chairman of the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) Martin Kuba answer the media's questions in front of the Lany Chateau after meeting President Milos Zeman (not seen) in the village of Lany near Prague June 21, 2013. REUTERS/David W Cerny

Czech Republic's speaker of the lower house of parliament and Deputy Chairman of ODS Miroslava Nemcova (L) and Industry and Trade Minister and acting Chairman of the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) Martin Kuba answer the media's questions in front of the Lany Chateau after meeting President Milos Zeman (not seen) in the village of Lany near Prague June 21, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/David W Cerny

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PRAGUE (Reuters) - The junior party in the ruling Czech coalition, TOP09, backed a plan on Friday to nominate parliament speaker Miroslava Nemcova as the new prime minister following the resignation of Petr Necas in a spying and bribery scandal.

President Milos Zeman, a leftist who has criticized the outgoing cabinet, started meetings with party heads on Friday to find a new government.

The president has the sole right to appoint a prime minister. Zeman has not said if he will accept Nemcova or pick a prime minister of his choice.

He plans to announce his decision on Tuesday after a weekend of meetings. On Friday, he met with the ruling Civic Democrats and later TOP09.

TOP09's leader Karel Schwarzenberg said afterwards that Zeman may still prefer a technocratic government to lead the country before the next general election due in May next year.

"Of course he indicated that he would prefer (a technocratic government) but he did not particularly insist on it," Schwarzenberg said in comments broadcast on Czech Television.

"He went through all the merits and drawbacks of individual solutions."

Earlier in the day, TOP09 backed Nemcova of the Civic Democrats but at the same time demanded its coalition partner quickly find a replacement for her as head of the lower house, indicating there was horse-trading to be done in the days ahead.

"The Civic Democrats have to realize that the situation is serious and that they have to take the coalition partners into account," Schwarzenberg told reporters before meeting Zeman.

Martin Kuba, the acting Civic Democrat chief after Necas resigned, said he was ready to discuss the issue with TOP09.

The Civic Democrats took a severe hit in popularity after the scandal broke out, an opinion poll showed on Friday.

Police have charged eight people including Necas's closest aide Jana Nagyova. Some are accused of bribery and some with illegal spying on people including the prime minister's wife.

Nagyova is charged with ordering illegal spying. Prosecutors also accuse her of offering bribes, in the form of posts at state companies, to three parliamentary deputies last year in exchange for abandoning a rebellion against the prime minister.

A lawyer for Nagyova said she rejected the charges and had acted in good faith.

(Reporting by Jason Hovet and Robert Muller; Writing by Jan Lopatka; Editing by Andrew Roche)

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