Czech election winner Babis says his cabinet to take power before December EU summit

PRAGUE (Reuters) - Czech ANO party leader Andrej Babis said on Tuesday he expected his minority cabinet to take power on Dec. 13 which would enable him to attend a European Union summit as prime minister.

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After meeting President Milos Zeman, Babis said he had not yet secured backing for his cabinet in the lower house of parliament, where ANO has 78 out of 200 seats and other parties have so far rejected joining or backing Babis’s administration.

Lacking any direct left-right ideology, Babis won the October election on pledges to cut corruption among mainstream parties, fight immigration and make government more efficient and pro-business.

“I convinced Mr President for an earlier date for appointing the cabinet, on Dec.13, because on Dec. 14 and 15 the European Council will take place which will obviously be very important,” Babis told reporters.

The progress of negotiations with Great Britain over its departure from the EU will be the main topic of the summit.

Babis said Zeman would appoint him on Dec. 6 as prime minister, and his full cabinet on Dec. 13, from which date the new team will take power regardless whether it has parliamentary majority.

The main sticking point for Babis, a businessman ranked by Forbes as the second richest Czech worth $4 billion, is that police want parliament to lift his immunity so he can be charged with illegal tapping of an EU subsidy a decade ago.

He denies any wrongdoing but the case has made him toxic for most of the other eight parliamentary factions. A parliamentary vote on his immunity is expected in the coming weeks.

Lack of mainstream partners has raised the prospect Babis may negotiate support with the anti-NATO, pro-Russian Communist party and the far-right Freedom and Direct Democracy Party (SPD), which wants to quit the EU, NATO and fight what it calls EU-forced islamisation.

Babis has repeatedly said he is ready to clash with EU partners over migration but also praised the EU’s role as guarantor of peaceful Europe and said he was a pro-European politician.

If the government loses a confidence vote prescribed within a month of its appointment, it must resign but it will stay in office until another solution is found, which can take months.

Reporting by Robert Muller; Writing by Jan Lopatka; Editing by Richard Balmforth