November 21, 2018 / 3:31 PM / a year ago

Czech ruling partner will allow cabinet to survive no-confidence motion

PRAGUE (Reuters) - The junior partner in the Czech Republic’s ruling coalition will allow the government to survive a motion of no-confidence by abstaining from the vote, the party said on Wednesday.

The decision announced by Jan Hamacek, head of the centre-left Social Democratic Party, makes it unlikely that Friday’s vote could gather 101 votes necessary to declare no-confidence in Prime Minister Andrej Babis’s government.

Babis has been under pressure over allegations from opponents that he tried to hinder an investigation into whether he and family members committed fraud.

Police charged the billionaire businessman and his two adult children last year with manipulating ownership of one of his firms a decade ago to receive a 2 million euro EU subsidy. He denies wrongdoing.

A news report this month said his adult son said Babis wanted him to hide last year from being questioned. The son said he was taken to the Russian-annexed Crimea against his will last year by his assistant.

Babis said his son, who has Swiss citizenship and lives in Switzerland, was being treated for mental illness and that he had traveled to Crimea voluntarily. Police were looking into the son’s complaint after ruling earlier there was no suspicion of a crime.

“The prime minister’s personal problems are burdening the government,” Hamacek told reporters, adding that the party had unsuccessfully lobbied for Babis’s ANO party to reshuffle the cabinet with another prime minister.

“Therefore our deputies will not take part in Friday’s vote, and at the same time we stated that the current government make-up has no alternative in the current division of power on the political scene,” he said.

ANO and the Social Democrats run a minority government backed by the far-left Communists, who have said they would continue to support Babis. That gives the opposition no chance of gathering the 101 votes necessary to declare no-confidence.

The Social Democrats said they would support an early election, which would however require 120 votes in parliament.

Reporting by Robert Muller, Writing by Jan Lopatka; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg

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