May 30, 2016 / 11:25 AM / 2 years ago

Czech cabinet gives smoking ban bill new try after coalition spat

PRAGUE, May 30 (Reuters) - The Czech centre-left government approved new anti-smoking legislation on Monday, agreeing to a revamped bill after some coalition lawmakers sank a government-backed proposal last week.

Last week’s failure to enact the ban on smoking in restaurants raised tensions in the three-party ruling coalition after Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka berated some members of a partner party for blocking its approval.

“It is one of the basic priorities that we agreed with our coalition parties,” Sobotka said in a statement.

“I believe the bill won’t collapse again in parliament and our coalition partners will take its approval seriously, so that it can take effect in 2017.”

The coalition has operated relatively smoothly since taking power two years ago, presiding over a narrowing budget deficit and an economy that has grown at one of fastest rates in Europe.

But signs of friction have appeared at times between Sobotka’s Social Democrats and billionaire Finance Minister Andrej Babis’s ANO party, the two leading parties in polls.

A portion of ANO lawmakers voted down a no-smoking bill in the lower house last Wednesday, saying the final bill was nothing like what was agreed in cabinet due to concessions to opposition parties.

Sobotka called the vote a “disgrace” and a violation of the coalition. Babis responded by saying Sobotka was lying.

Tensions eased late last week after an emergency coalition meeting where parties agreed to submit new legislation.

Opposition parties criticised the no-smoking bill as an attack on personal freedom and a burden for restaurant owners. Most Czechs, however, support the no-smoking push, according to surveys. (Reporting by Jason Hovet; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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