Czech foreign minister fired in government reshuffle

PRAGUE (AP) — Czech Republic’s foreign minister was fired Monday in a government reshuffle less than six months before the parliamentary election.

The move came after Foreign Minister Tomas Petricek failed to beat Interior Minister Jan Hamacek, who was reelected as the leader of the Social Democrats at their party congress last week.

The leftist Social Democrats are a junior party in the coalition government dominated by Prime Minister Andrej Babis’s centrist ANO (YES) movement.

Hamacek said the Social Democrats, a traditional party whose popularity has been shrinking, need to speak in a united voice before the Oct 8-9 election.

Petricek was opposing any further coalition with Babis in the future. He was the second minister to lose his job in the government in a week who opposed vaccination by Russia’s Sputnik V shot before it is approved by the European Union’s drug regulator.

Health Minister Jan Blatny was fired last week.

Both Blatny and Petricek were under fire from President Milos Zeman, who is known for his pro-Russia views.

Petricek said his opposition to Russia’s participation in a tender to build a nuclear reactor at the country’s Dukovany nuclear plant also angered the president.

“I always supported the pro-European and pro-western orientation of the Czech Republic,” he said.

Zeman has demanded his replacement for a long time.

Culture Minister Lubomir Zaoralek has been put forward to take over the foreign ministry, Hamacek said. Zaoralek already served in the post from 2014-17.

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