PRAGUE (Reuters) - Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said on Sunday there would be a snap election if his coalition partner goes through with threat to quit, raising the prospect of more political turmoil after weeks of street protests against his rule.
Babis told a TV debate he had already ruled out seeking the support of the far-right, anti-EU and anti-NATO Freedom and Direct Democracy party, so a new vote would be the only option.
“I believe the Social Democrats will not leave the government,” Babis said, referring to his left-leaning junior coalition partner.
“Why would they? It would be a complete suicide, because it would de facto mean an early election,” he added. The next election is currently scheduled for late 2021.
Babis’ minority coalition government survived a no-confidence motion brought by the opposition about the protests on Thursday.
But it immediately plunged back into turmoil when the Social Democrats threatened to quit in protest at President Milos Zeman’s refusal to appoint a new culture minister from their ranks.
They have called on Babis to press the president to make the appointment. But Zeman has refused to budge, saying he prefers the current minister.
Tens of thousands took to the streets of Prague on Sunday last week - the biggest anti-government protest in the Czech post-communist era - demanding Babis step down over criminal and financial investigations against him.
The billionaire-turned-politician has denied any wrongdoing.
An opinion poll by Kantar agency, released by the Czech Television on Sunday, showed Babis’ ANO party still leading the rest - but the 25.5 percent reading was it’s worst showing since 2016.
Reporting by Jan Lopatka; Editing by Andrew Heavens