Czech PM accepts proposal for finance minister replacement

Markets Associated Press

Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka accepted a proposal for a new finance minister on Wednesday, paving the way for a resolution to the country's latest political crisis.

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Sobotka agreed to ask President Milos Zeman to make lawmaker Ivan Pilny, the former head of Microsoft's operations in the Czech Republic, the next finance minister.

Sobotka had asked Zeman to fire the current finance minister, Andrej Babis, over unexplained business dealings that aroused suspicion he had avoided paying taxes.

Babis, one of the country's richest people, denied wrongdoing and initially said he wouldn't resign.

Zeman, his ally, has so far refused to fire him, saying he considered Babis a successful minister.

Thousands of people rallied on Wednesday in Prague and other major cities against Zeman and Babis. Similar protests were held last week.

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The protesters gathered at Wenceslas Square in downtown Prague to demand Babis' firing and Zeman's resignation and then marched to the Prague Castle, the seat of the presidency.

Zeman was away, promoting business opportunities on a trip to China. The president is expected to respond to the nomination of a replacement finance minister next week.

To end the rift with Sobotka, Babis last week proposed his deputy as a replacement, an idea the prime minister rejected.

Babis then suggested Pilny, a lawmaker for his centrist ANO movement, on Wednesday. Sobotka agreed with the recommendation.

ANO is favored to win an October parliamentary election well ahead of Sobotka's leftist Social Democrats.