Czech PM not ready to resign, fires finance minister

Czech PM delays resignation as parties search for way forward

The Czech Republic's prime minister says he wants to postpone his resignation until the second half of May as his feud with a rival government member rolls on.

"The government crisis can be over in 10 minutes", Sobotka told reporters "All it takes is for Andrej Babis to recognise his responsibility and put the interests of the Czech Republic ahead of his desire to remain finance minister".

Before announcing the cabinet's resignation, Sobotka had weighed sacking only Babis, a move the president - who formally removes ministers - indicated he might oppose.

Sobotka said Babis had failed to clear suspicions that he avoided tax by buying tax-free bonds from his chemicals and food conglomerate.

Earlier this week Sobotka had said he would resign along with the whole government.

The governing coalition is made up of the Christian Democrats, Sobotka's Czech Social Democratic Party (CSSD) and Babis' ANO 2011 centrist party.

Sobotka said Friday he chose to change his mind after President Milos Zeman — an ally of Babis — tried to accept the resignation only of Sobotka, and not the whole government.

Sobotka chose to resign to deny Babis the chance of casting himself as a political martyr, he added.

He said Babis was the major reason for the government's resignation.

The premier said his initial offer to quit was meant as a resignation of the entire cabinet, which has traditionally been the practice in the past.

Sobotka said if he only dismissed Babis, who is ANO's chairman, this would make the government's functioning impossible. "The essence of the problem is that we have a deputy prime minister burdened with scandals", Sobotka said. However, Sobotka's team announced in the media this morning that Zeman and Sobotka will only discuss the current situation and that the resignation will be tendered later in May after Zeman returns from China.

Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka arrived at Prague Castle, the seat of the presidency, on Thursday for consultations with the president.



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