Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Czech Prime Minister Nominated ; President Picks Loyal Ally in Defiance of Departing Government's Preference

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Czech Prime Minister Nominated ; President Picks Loyal Ally in Defiance of Departing Government's Preference

Article excerpt

Defying the governing coalition's choice, President Milos Zeman nominated staunch loyalist Jiri Rusnok to replace Petr Necas, who resigned after a senior aide was charged with bribery and abuse of office.

President Milos Zeman of the Czech Republic on Tuesday appointed his leftist economic adviser as prime minister, openly defying the choice of the outgoing center-right governing coalition, which is ensnared in a corruption and bribery scandal.

The nominee, Jiri Rusnok, 52, is a staunch loyalist who supported Mr. Zeman's presidential campaign. He would replace Petr Necas, who resigned last week after a senior aide was charged with bribery and abuse of office, accused, among other things, ordering the military intelligence service to spy on several people, including Mr. Necas's wife.

On June 13, the police arrested eight people, including Mr. Necas's chief of staff, Jana Nagyova, and the current and former heads of military intelligence, in the most extensive anti- corruption operation since the fall of communism.

Mr. Rusnok served as finance minister in the Social Democratic government from 2001 to 2002 when Mr. Zeman was prime minister. He was the industry and trade minister in a later government. A pragmatist who has worked both for trade unions and the private sector, Mr. Rusnok is currently the chairman of the board of a pension fund.

Analysts suggested that Mr. Zeman's appointment of a close ally was an effort by the president to expand his authority.

The departing center-right coalition government, which holds a parliamentary majority, had opposed the appointment of Mr. Rusnok. Last week it nominated Miroslava Nemcova, the speaker of the lower house of Parliament, as its candidate for prime minister.

But Mr. Zeman, who has the power to appoint the prime minister, said Tuesday that he had promised during the presidential elections in January that he would take down the Necas government, and that he was now fulfilling his promise. …

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