New Czech PM unlikely to end political crisis

Jiri Rusnok hopes to assemble non-partisan cabinet of experts within two weeks

Czech president Milos Zeman (left) and newly appointed prime miinster Jiri Rusnok attend a news conference at Prague Castle yesterday. Photograph: Reuters/Petr Josek

Czech president Milos Zeman (left) and newly appointed prime miinster Jiri Rusnok attend a news conference at Prague Castle yesterday. Photograph: Reuters/Petr Josek

 


Czech president Milos Zeman has named an old ally as the country’s new prime minister, in a controversial move unpopular with all major parties and unlikely to end a political crisis.

Mr Zeman ignored a candidate from the outgoing centre-right coalition, and calls from the opposition Social Democrats for snap elections, by appointing as premier Jiri Rusnok, who served as finance minister in 2001-2002 as part of Mr Zeman’s leftist government.

“I don’t know a better finance minister than you were and I believe you will fulfil your duties,” Mr Zeman told Mr Rusnok at Prague Castle yesterday.

Mr Rusnok said he hoped to assemble a non-partisan cabinet of experts within a fortnight. It must then be approved by a majority in parliament to take office.

Petr Necas of the Civic Democrats (ODS) resigned as prime minister last week, following police raids at government headquarters, the defence ministry and private businesses and homes. They resulted in the arrest of eight people, including Jana Nagyova, who ran Mr Necas’s office; the current and former heads of military intelligence; and three ex-deputies.

The ODS insisted that it had enough support in parliament for its candidate, Miroslava Nemcova, to become the new prime minister, but Mr Zeman said he did not believe the current scandal-tainted coalition should continue to rule.

Leading ODS members said there was no way Mr Rusnok’s cabinet would win parliamentary approval. Ms Nemcova called Mr Zeman’s decision “an expression of disrespect to parliament, an irresponsible step.”

The Social Democrats said they would not support Mr Rusnok either, because they want immediate elections. Polls suggest they would easily win such a vote.