Ailing Czech leader summons new parliament for Nov 8
Prague, Oct 14 (AFP/APP):Hospitalised Czech President Milos Zeman on Thursday summoned parliament to hold its first session after last weekend's tight general election for November 8, his spokesman Jiri Ovcacek said. The announcement came as Zeman spent a fifth day in intensive care at a Prague hospital with little information about his condition and uncertainty about who he will ask to form the new government. Billionaire populist Prime Minister Andrej Babis's populist ANO (YES) party was narrowly defeated by two alliances comprising five liberal, centrist and right-wing parties in the election. The two alliances, which won a majority of 108 seats in the 200-seat parliament, have already started working on the new government. But before the election, the pro-Russian Zeman suggested he would tap the leader of the single party that won the most votes to form the new government. This would mean Babis would be chosen, although his ANO party has virtually no chance to secure a majority coalition. Under the constitution, parliament must meet before the outgoing government resigns. The president can only tap a candidate for prime minister after that. The winning alliances have proposed Petr Fiala, the head of the right-wing Civic Democrats, as the next prime minister. Presidential spokesman Jiri Ovcacek said on Wednesday that Zeman would meet Fiala "at a later date". - 'Making jokes' - Babis and Zeman met briefly before Zeman's departure for the hospital, but no nomination took place, although Babis said later Zeman had promised to give him the first attempt to form a government at that meeting. Babis has also said he is ready to go into opposition. Zeman's condition remained a mystery on Thursday as neither Ovcacek nor the hospital have disclosed any details since he was admitted on Sunday. Local media have suggested Zeman is suffering from chronic liver problems. Parliament speaker Radek Vondracek told reporters Zeman on Thursday had personally handed him the decision to summon the parliament, and that he was "making jokes and in a positive mood". Zeman's wife Ivana, accompanied by their daughter, spoke to the media briefly on Thursday, asking them for patience and saying the president's treatment would "take time". Czech senators have meanwhile started looking at how to bypass the ailing leader in the government-forming process. The constitution allows the parliament to declare the president "unable to execute his official duties" in a vote, with the president's powers taken over by the outgoing prime minister and the new parliament speaker.