Europe

Petr Fiala named new Czech Republic prime minister

Published : November 29, 2021 15:30 IST

Petr Fiala has become the new Czech prime minister. Photo: Roman Vondrous/CTK via AP/picture alliance

After weeks of delay due to the president's health, the center-right leader is replacing populist Andrej Babis.

Czech President Milos Zeman named Petr Fiala as the prime minister of the Czech Republic on November 28 following Fiala's electoral win in October. Fiala leads a center-right coalition and was able to oust the outgoing populist Prime Minister Andrej Babis with the support of several left-wing parties.

Zeman left the hospital on November 27 after being treated for health problems. He also recently tested positive for COVID-19 and was thus separated from Fiala by plexiglass during the ceremony at Zeman's residence near the capital, Prague. "I am convinced we will soon have a strong and stable government," Fiala said at the ceremony.

Parties team up against Babis

Fiala, 57, heads the three-party coalition Together (Civic Democratic Party, Christian Democrats, TOP 09 party), which garnered 27.8 per cent of the vote in early October. The alliance narrowly defeated the ANO movement led by billionaire Babis. The centrist group of the Mayors and Independents and the left-wing Pirate Party joined with Fiala's coalition to remove Babis, who had served as prime minister since 2017.

The president would normally mediate post-election talks, but Zeman's hospitalization — he was being treated for liver problems — forced his absence. Zeman, 77, was taken to hospital on October 10, a day after the election. He was initially released on November 25, with the expectation that he would appoint Fiala the following day. But he was then rushed back to the hospital after testing positive for coronavirus.

COVID causes disruption

The Czech Republic is facing daily record infections of the virus. The outgoing government brought in a raft of new measures on November 25, including the nighttime closure of restaurants, bars and clubs. It also shut down all Christmas markets. Many Czech hospitals are already at full capacity, and experts have warned that stricter measures need to be introduced to bring the numbers down. Not only will the new government have to tackle a record wave of infections, but also soaring inflation and energy costs which have cast a shadow over the country in the run-up to Christmas.

ab/wmr (Reuters, AFP)

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