Czech PM calls news conference as finance minister's job in balance

Reuters News
Posted: May 02, 2017 8:29 AM

PRAGUE (Reuters) - Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka called an extraordinary news conference for 1.30 p.m. (1130 GMT) on Tuesday to address issues related to his rival Finance Minister Andrej Babis, Sobotka's spokesman said.

Ahead of an election due in October, Sobotka has demanded the billionaire former businessman Babis must explain his past financial dealings, including using legal loopholes to issue tax-free bonds.

Babis, who has denied any wrongdoing, said last week he believed Sobotka intended to sack him. He said he had no intention of resigning.

Babis's centrist ANO movement leads Sobotka's center-left Social Democrats by a double-digit margin in most opinion polls.

Dismissing Babis could threaten the three-party ruling coalition, but the cabinet may survive given the proximity of the election and strong opposition to Babis among several opposition parliamentary factions.

Dismissing ministers is officially up to the president, Milos Zeman, who is supposed to act upon the prime minister's request.

The constitution however gives no time frame, opening the possibility that the president, who has had good relations with Babis, may drag out the process.

(Reporting by Jan Lopatka; Editing by Tom Heneghan)