New Czech cabinet loses parliamentary confidence

PRAGUE (AP) — A new government of technocrats appointed by the left-leaning Czech president lost a parliamentary confidence vote on Wednesday, leaving the country stuck in a political crisis.

Only 93 of the 193 lawmakers present in the lower house voted to support Prime Minister Jiri Rusnok’s government. Afterward, several major parties agreed that early elections would be the best way forward.

Rusnok called the vote “a fair loss” and said he will resign Thursday or Friday.

The vote was widely expected.

President Milos Zeman appointed the country’s new Cabinet last month following June’s collapse of the center-right coalition government of Prime Minister Petr Necas in a whirlwind of corruption allegations and marital infidelity.

Zeman’s choice of Rusnok sparked anger from the center-right coalition, but in a surprise development it failed to remain united as three members refused to vote against the government. Angered by the defectors, TOP 09, a conservative member of the coalition, said it would support a snap election.

The major opposition Social Democrats said they want the lower house to discuss the option as soon as possible.

“We have nothing to wait for,” party chairman Bohuslav Sobotka said. “The best solution is to give the citizens a chance to decide on the next government.” He said if approved, an early vote might take place as soon as in October. Regular elections were due in May 2014.

Polls have shown angry voters turning their backs on Necas’ conservative Civic Democratic Party, partly due to austerity measures adopted to reduce the deficit and partly due to corruption scandals. The party would likely lose badly, while the Social Democrats would stand a good chance of winning the ballot.

The centrist opposition Public Affairs party and the Communist said Wednesday they support the early vote. With the TOP 09 and the Social Democrats, they have enough seats to get a three-fifths majority necessary to dissolve the lower house.

“I’m not happy with the situation,” said Martin Kuba, acting chairman of the Civic Democrats.

The crisis began when eight people were arrested in June, including Necas’ closest aide and the head of his office, with whom he was having an affair. She is suspected of bribery and ordering a military intelligence agency to spy on Necas’ then estranged wife.

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