Right-winger Petr Fiala to be named new Czech PM

Right-winger Petr Fiala to be named new Czech PM

The Czech Republic's Civic Party leader Petr Fiala is to take over as prime minister after forming the centre-right Together alliance
The Czech Republic's Civic Party leader Petr Fiala is to take over as prime minister after forming the centre-right Together alliance

PRAGUE - Right-winger Petr Fiala is set to be named the Czech Republic's new prime minister on Sunday and will face the urgent task of battling one of the world's highest Covid-19 infection rates.

President Milos Zeman, who has himself tested positive for Covid-19, is to appoint the 57-year-old Fiala in a socially distanced ceremony in his residence at the Lany chateau west of Prague.

Fiala, a bearded, bespectacled former political scientist, teamed up his Civic Democratic Party with two smaller parties to form the Together alliance which came first in last month's general election.

The grouping, which includes the centrist Christian Democrats and the centre-right TOP 09 parties, narrowly beat the ANO movement of populist billionaire Prime Minister Andrej Babis.

The alliance has since forged a coalition with two centrist parties -- the Mayors and Independents, and the Pirate Party -- to secure a majority of 108 votes in the 200-seat parliament.

The five parties have agreed on the composition of the future government and on a policy statement.

Post-election talks were held without the 77-year-old president, who was taken to hospital by ambulance on October 10, a day after the election, to be treated for liver problems.

- Delays as Covid spikes -

Zeman, a left-winger with a soft spot for Russia and China, had originally been expected to name Fiala as prime minister on Friday, a day after he was released from Prague's military hospital.

But he was rushed back to hospital on the same day after testing positive for Covid.

Zeman was discharged again on Saturday.

Under the Czech constitution, Zeman also has to name the government.

But he said he had a problem with one person proposed by Fiala, raising concerns he may delay the process.

Fiala has said Zeman should name the government by mid-December as the EU member of 10.7 million people is grappling with record daily Covid-19 infections.

The surge led the outgoing government to announce new restrictions on Thursday, including the closure of restaurants, bars and discos at night, as well as all Christmas markets.

But observers say stricter measures may be needed.

Hospitals in the east are running out of capacity and some have begun to move patients to less congested facilities elsewhere in the country.

The Czech Republic is also struggling with unprecedented growth in energy prices and soaring inflation, which have thrown many people into uncertainty before Christmas.

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