Czech party leaders agree on new premier, early election timing

Czech party leaders agree on new premier, early election timingPrague - Czech rival party leaders agreed Sunday on a new caretaker premier, Czech Statistics Office chief Jan Fischer, whose interim government would complete the country's presidency of the European Union, local reports said, citing party leaders.

The Czech Republic holds the EU's six-month rotating presidency until June 30.

Fischer, 58, would be a newcomer to the world of top-level politics, following a statistics career mostly in public sector and academia.

Ten days after Topolanek's three-party center-right cabinet resigned, following a lost confidence vote two days earlier in Parliament, the party leaders agreed preliminarily to hold early elections before October 15, likely on October 9-10, the CTK news agency reported after talks late Sunday.

The deal was forged by leaders of four of the five parties in Parliament's lower house, excluding the opposition Communists, whose participation in government has been a taboo since communism fell in then-Czechoslovakia in 1989.

The dealmakers included chiefs of the two main rival parties - outgoing Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek and opposition Social Democratic leader Jiri Paroubek - as well as the leaders of Topolanek's junior coalition partners, the Christian Democrats and the Greens.

The interim government bringing the country to the polls should not include any of the current ministers, the Pravo daily said in its online edition.

If endorsed by wider party leaderships, the interim government decision would move to President Vaclav Klaus, who has the right to appoint the next premier.

Klaus said that he would designate whoever secures an absolute majority of 101 votes in the 200-seat lower house, a condition that required cooperation between bitter foes Topolanek and Paroubek. Analysts say that fear of the president's intervention united the two opponents.

Czech lawmakers can force snap polls without the president if at least 120 of members pass a bill cutting short their four-year term. dpa

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