Czech president seeks to again name Babis as prime minister by mid-June

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis arrives at a news conference at government headquarters in Prague, Czech Republic, March 26, 2018. REUTERS/David W Cerny

PRAGUE (Reuters) - Czech President Milos Zeman plans to name Andrej Babis as prime minister for a second time before the middle of June, he told Czech Television on Monday, a move to speed up the formation of a new government.

Babis’s centrist ANO party struck a coalition agreement with the center-left Social Democrats this month that is still subject to approval by rank-and-file Social Democrat members.

The results of the party’s internal referendum on the government are likely to be announced on June 15.

“I will certainly name Andrej Babis prime minister before June 15,” Zeman told the state broadcaster. He did not specify a date.

Zeman first named Babis prime minister in December, but his minority cabinet lost a vote of confidence the following month and he has since ruled in a caretaker capacity. Babis requires another mandate from Zeman to seek a new confidence vote and become permanent prime minister.

A billionaire businessman before entering politics in 2011, Babis has struggled to gain partners while he fights police allegations that he illegally gained EU subsidies meant for small businesses a decade ago. He denies wrongdoing.

The ANO party won the most seats in an election in October but lacks a majority and the coalition with the Social Democrats will still be in a minority. With 93 of 200 lower house seats, it will require ad hoc backing from the small Communist party.

Some prominent Social Democrats have come out against joining a coalition with Babis. As a condition, the Social Democrats secured an agreement that Babis will step down if a court finds him guilty in the fraud case.

Babis has said if the deal with the Social Democrats falls through, an early election could be held next spring. Zeman, who has backed Babis in the drawn out government talks, has opposed early elections.

Reporting by Jason Hovet; Editing by Peter Graff