New Czech governing coalition wins confidence vote

The Czech Republic’s new government won a mandatory confidence vote in the lower house of Parliament on Thursday with the coronavirus pandemic and soaring inflation presenting its immediate policy challenges.

Lawmakers voted 106-87 in favor of the conservative-led government, in the ballot that every new administration must win to govern.

The government was cobbled together by two coalitions which together won a majority of seats in an Oct. 8-9 parliamentary election, ending the reign of populist billionaire Andrej Babis.

“We’re not populists,” conservative Prime Minister Petr Fiala told lawmakers during a debate that ended with the vote Thursday evening. “We’re not promising anything that we’re not sure we can fulfil.”

The coalition government holds 108 of the lower house’s 200 seats, relegating Babis and his centrist ANO (YES) movement to the opposition.

A three-party, liberal-conservative coalition known as Together, composed of the Civic Democratic Party, the Christian Democrats and the TOP 09 party, came in first in the election with 27.8% of the vote.

It has formed a government with a center-left liberal coalition made up of the Pirate Party and STAN — a group of mayors and independent candidates — which placed third.

ANO narrowly lost the election with 27.1% of the vote.

Despite their differences on many issues, including climate change, same-sex marriage and the adoption of the euro, the coalition parties all support the Czech Republic’s membership of the European Union and NATO.

The government, which was sworn in on Dec 17, has focused on adopting measures to address an anticipated surge of the coronavirus’ highly contagious omicron variant that has become dominant in the country.

Among them, it cut isolation restrictions for those testing positive from 14 to five days, and also similarly shortened quarantine time for close contacts of infected people.

The Cabinet has made it mandatory for all employees to get tested for the coronavirus twice a week and is considering allowing people in some professions who are infected with COVID-19 but display no symptoms to work.

New infections had been declining since a record high in late November, but started growing again last week.

The country has registered over 2.5 million infections and 36,765 deaths.

The new government also pledged to work to phase out coal in energy production by 2033 while increasing the country’s reliance on nuclear and renewable sources.

It has approved a plan to help residents affected by high energy prices, one of the factors behind high inflation that reached 6.6% in November.

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