Junior Czech coalition party wins speaker post in reshuffle plan

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 22, 2013 4:48 PM

PRAGUE (Reuters) - The Czech coalition agreed on Saturday that the junior party can have the post of parliamentary speaker if the current one becomes prime minister in a reshuffle caused by a spying and bribery scandal.

The deal clears a potential hurdle for the three-party center-right coalition which hopes to avoid a snap election after Prime Minister Petr Necas resigned over the scandal.

It has put forward lower house speaker Miroslava Nemcova, from Necas's Civic Democrat party, to replace him.

President Milos Zeman, a leftist who has criticized the government, has the sole right to appoint a prime minister. He is holding meetings with party heads over the weekend before announcing a decision on Tuesday.

Zeman has not said if he will accept Nemcova or pick a leader of his choice. The opposition Social Democrats are pushing for a snap election - ahead of the one scheduled for May next year. Opinion polls indicate it would win easily.

Saturday's deal is a victory for the TOP09 party, which had hinted that it wanted the speaker's position as the price of sustaining the shaky coalition that has faced collapse several times since taking power in 2010.

"TOP09 should make the nomination and the coalition should stand behind it," Martin Kuba, acting Civic Democrat party leader, said in comments broadcast on Czech Television.

Police have charged eight people for offences including bribery and illegal spying on people including the prime minister's wife.

Banning Straws
John Stossel

Necas's closest aide, Jana Nagyova, is charged with ordering illegal spying. Prosecutors also accuse her of offering bribes, in the form of posts at state companies, to three parliamentary deputies last year in exchange for abandoning a rebellion against the prime minister.

Necas himself has not been charged but his Civic Democrats have suffered a severe hit in popularity.

A lawyer for Nagyova, who is in custody, says she denies some of the allegations against her, while on others she argues that she acted in good faith.

(Reporting by Jason Hovet; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)