PRAGUE (Reuters) - Position: Prime Minister
Incumbent: Bohuslav Sobotka
Date of birth: October 23, 1971
Term: Appointed on Jan 17, 2014.
- Center-left Social Democrat Sobotka served as finance minister in 2002-2006, an era of record economic growth that kept budget deficits under control.
- Sobotka is in favor of deeper European integration, including eventual entry into the euro zone. He favors tax hikes for big firms and top earners to fund social benefits and free healthcare.
- Sobotka took part in reviving the Czech Social Democratic Party, dismantled by the Communists after their coup in 1948. He co-founded its youth branch in 1990 and after holding various positions he has been elected chairman in March 2011.
- A life-long politician, Sobotka won his first seat in the lower house of parliament in 1996, aged 24, a year after finishing his law degree. He served as the head of the budget committee.
- The soft-spoken Sobotka has repeatedly had to fight accusations by commentators and party rivals that he is a weak leader with a lack of a strong vision. He has overcome attempts to overthrow him and has tightened his grip over his party after the October 2013 election that led him to government.
- Sobotka and President Milos Zeman have been political adversaries for the past decade. The animosity may lead to conflicts between the cabinet and the presidency that may obstruct some of the government’s plans.
- Sobotka has avoided much of the sleaze scandals that are common among the Czech political class. Police, however, have been looking into the 2004 privatization of coal mine OKD, probing whether the government at the time, including Sobotka at the finance ministry, sold its minority stake below fair value.
Reporting by Robert Muller