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Czech PM Sobotka resigns over conflict with his rival Andrej Babiš

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Czechia, Prague – The Czech prime minister announced unexpectedly his government will resign over unexplained business dealings of his rival for the upcoming elections, Andrej Babiš, the country’s finance minister and wealthy businessman.

Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said on Tuesday, May 2, he would resign later this week along with the whole cabinet in response to a row with Finance Minister Andrej Babiš over his past business activities.

Sobotka said there are suspicions that Finance Minister Andrej Babiš, the country’s second richest businessman, avoided paying taxes in the past and that he used some legal loopholes to issue tax-free bonds.

Babiš leads a centrist movement, built on anti-corruption message, that is a favorite to win October 20-21’s ballot, giving him the opportunity to become Prime Minister of Czechia.

Sobotka’s Social Democrats are a distant second, according to the polls. The Christian Democrats are the third member of the coalition that was created in 2014.

Sobotka said it would be an option to fire Babiš but that would mean his rival would be given extra time to campaign ahead of the vote.

“I cannot as prime minister further bear responsibility for a situation where a person whose past is unclear is in the position of finance minister,” Sobotka told reporters.

“That’s the reason I’m opting for the only reasonable solution which is available, and that’s the government’s resignation,” Sobotka said during a hastily organized news conference. “A trust of the public in politics is at stake,” Sobotka said.

The PM said the move will give the coalition a chance to form a government again, but without Babiš. Another option is for Parliament to call early elections, if ruling and opposition parties in parliament agree to bring the vote forward.

Sobotka announced to meet with president Zeman this week in order to agree on the timing of the resignation. The president will also have to choose the next prime minister.