New Czech government in jeopardy over foreign minister nomination

PRAGUE (Reuters) - The Czech Communist party will withhold support from the next government if the Social Democrats stick to their nominee for the post of foreign minister, Communist leader Vojtech Filip said on Sunday.

FILE PHOTO - Communist Party (KSCM) Chairman Vojtech Filip arrives at the party's election headquarters after the country's early general election in Prague October 26, 2013. REUTERS/David W Cerny

The government being assembled by Prime Minister Andrej Babis’s ANO party and the Social Democrat party (CSSD) would lack a majority in parliament and therefore lean on the far-left, pro-Russian Communists in a confidence vote.

Babis, who is being investigated by police over the alleged abuse of a 2 million euro ($2.3 million) EU subsidy a decade ago, has struggled to find anyone to team up with him in power since his party won nearly 30 percent of the vote last October.

He has denied any wrongdoing and dismissed the inquiry as a plot against him.

The CSSD has nominated Miroslav Poche, a member of the European Parliament, for the top diplomatic job, drawing strong criticism from President Milos Zeman and the Communists.

The president, who appoints ministers, and the Communists claim that Poche voted in the European Parliament in favor of fining EU members that do not accept their full quota of migrants, going against Czech policy on the issue. Poche has denied the allegation.

Filip said during a debate aired on state television that if Poche became foreign minister, the Communists would not support the government.

The Social Democratic party announced the results of an internal vote on Friday, in which a majority of its members supported joining a coalition with the dominant centrist ANO, a major step towards ending more than eight months of stalemate after an inconclusive election.

ANO leader Babis met President Zeman on Sunday and presented him ministerial nominations, including Poche and the other picks by the Social Democrats. He said after the meeting that the president would meet with Poche and the other nominees.

“I expect this problem to be solved, we also have to look for a solution with chairman Hamacek and of course with the Communist party too,” he said, referring to Jan Hamacek, head of the CSSD.

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Reporting by Robert Muller; Editing by Dale Hudson and Susan Fenton