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Czech politics in limbo as president in intensive care

By AFP - Oct 11,2021 - Last updated at Oct 11,2021

Director of the Central Military Hospital Miroslav Zavoral speaks to the media in Prague on Sunday (AFP photo)

PRAGUE — Czech politics were thrown into uncertainty on Monday with the president being treated by an elite team of intensive care specialists and his chief ally, billionaire Prime Minister Andrej Babis, defeated in a general election.

Babis's populist ANO (YES) Party narrowly lost at the weekend to a three-party centre-right alliance called Together and led by right-winger Petr Fiala.

President Milos Zeman needs to convene parliament within 30 days of the election and name the next prime minister under the Czech constitution, besides mediating talks on the new government.

On Sunday, he had a brief meeting with Babis, but was then rushed to Prague's military hospital from his residence. Local media say that he is suffering from liver problems.

The hospital said in a statement on Monday that Zeman was hospitalised at the anesthesiology, resuscitation and intensive medicine clinic, the top level of intensive care.

"He is being treated by a team of health staff specialised in intensive care," said its spokeswoman Jitka Zinke.

The statement suggests Zeman is in a serious condition, but the hospital and his spokesman kept silent about his state.

Images of the 77-year-old head of state being taken out of an ambulance on Sunday with his head supported have cast doubt on his ability to lead talks on forming the next government.

"Tell us what is going on with Zeman!" shrieked a headline on the website of the Blesk tabloid on Monday morning.


Fiala 'must act fast' 


"I would be happy with basic information," independent political analyst Jan Kubacek told AFP.

"If they say he'll stay for weeks, we will roughly know what is happening and the situation will calm down."

Fiala's Together won 108 seats in the 200-seat parliament with an alliance of the liberal Pirates and the centrist Mayors and Independents, which looks set to oust Babis from power.

But Zeman had said earlier he would tap the leader of a party, not an alliance, to form the next government, suggesting his old political ally Babis would go first.

"If Fiala wants to be perceived as the prime minister by the broad public, he has to start acting like a prime minister," said Kubacek.

"He must act fast, build the government team and draft the policy statement. The more ready he will be when he meets the president, the more likely he is to succeed," the analyst said.

An EU and NATO member of 10.7 million people, the ex-communist Czech Republic has been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Its economy largely depends on car production and exports to the eurozone, which it has yet to join.

Babis, a food, chemicals and media mogul, is facing EU anger over his conflict of interest as a politician and entrepreneur, as well as charges over EU subsidy fraud.

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