PRAGUE The Czech Republic's main ruling party was due to meet on Monday to search for a candidate to succeed Prime Minister Petr Necas who quit on Sunday after a spying and bribery scandal that centered on his closest aide.
Necas was due to formally hand in his resignation to President Milos Zeman on Monday afternoon, starting the formal process of replacing the entire center-right cabinet which fell automatically with the prime minister.
Necas quit after prosecutors charged the head of his office, Jana Nagyova, with illegally ordering agents to spy on people including Necas's wife, according to lawyers for two defendants in the case. He said he was not aware of any surveillance.
She was also charged with bribing members of parliament to drop a rebellion against Necas last year.
The outgoing prime minister's Civic Democratic party aims to form a new government with their current two coalition partners to finish the regular four-year term expiring next May. The party called a leadership meeting for 1 p.m. (1100 GMT) to discuss who could replace Necas.
But for that plan to work, they need the consent of Zeman, who has the sole right to appoint the next prime minister. Zeman, a leftist opponent of Necas, has not made any comment on who should succeed him.
If repeated attempts to form a new cabinet fail, or if coalition and opposition parties agree to dissolve parliament, an early election would be held, possibly in the autumn.
The Civic Democrats (ODS) have not revealed any list of candidates for the premiership, but politicians and the media have pointed to the party's deputy chairman, Industry and Trade Minister Martin Kuba.
"He is the number one in the ODS after Necas and if he asks for the position, I will respect that," party official Jiri Pospisil said on Czech Television. Kuba was quoted as saying he would accept the job if asked to.
A lawyer for Nagyova, who is in custody, says she denies some of the allegations against her, while on others she says she acted in good faith.
(Reporting by Jan Lopatka; Editing by Giles Elgood)