April 15, 2018 / 4:27 PM / in a year

Czech PM Babis wants deal on ministries this week in renewed govt talks

PRAGUE (Reuters) - Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said on Sunday he was aiming for an agreement on which ministries each party will control in the coming week as he restarts talks with the Social Democrats on a potential coalition government.

FILE PHOTO: Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis arrives at a European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium, March 22, 2018. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

Babis’s ruling ANO party is set to meet the Social Democrats on Monday, returning to the negotiating table after previous talks broke down earlier this month in a fight over ministries.

The new talks are the latest in nearly six months of attempts to form a government following an election which the centrist, populist ANO won, while falling short of a majority.

“We will certainly hurry, at least from our side. We need to have some clear preliminary agreement by the coming Friday,” Babis told reporters after meeting the president.

“We have an interest in having a clear deal on a new government as soon as possible.”

ANO’s leadership agreed last Thursday to restart negotiations with the center-left Social Democrats to form a new government to avoid having to seek a deal involving an anti-European far-right party.

Most parties have refused to form a cabinet with ANO if the party’s billionaire founder Babis is prime minister, due to conflicts of interest stemming from his business, and police charges that he broke rules to qualify for a 2 million euro European Union subsidy. He denies any wrongdoing.

Babis’s attempt at installing a minority cabinet failed in a confidence vote in January, although his administration has stayed on in a caretaker role.

ANO had earlier tried a coalition with the Social Democrats, a pro-EU party that ruled with ANO in 2014-2017. But their talks collapsed because ANO refused to yield the interior ministry, which the prospective partner demanded make sure Babis has no influence over his investigation.

An ANO-CSSD coalition would have 93 votes in the 200-seat lower house of parliament and would require votes from the far-left, anti-NATO Communist party. Both ANO and the Social Democrats have said this was acceptable given the government would maintain a pro-EU course.

Reporting by Jason Hovet, editing by David Evans

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