Czech PM Rusnok expects cabinet appointed next Wednesday

PRAGUE Tue Jul 2, 2013 2:32pm BST

Jiri Rusnok attends a news conference after being appointed by Czech President Milos Zeman as new prime minister at Prague Castle June 25, 2013. REUTERS/Petr Josek

Jiri Rusnok attends a news conference after being appointed by Czech President Milos Zeman as new prime minister at Prague Castle June 25, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Petr Josek

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PRAGUE (Reuters) - New Czech Prime Minister Jiri Rusnok said on Tuesday he expected his full cabinet to be appointed by President Milos Zeman on Wednesday next week.

But Rusnok, a left-wing independent picked by Zeman against the will of main political parties, lacks sufficient support for a parliamentary vote of confidence required within a month after the cabinet's appointment. So the central European country's political crisis could last for months to come.

Rusnok has found eight ministers so far but is still missing someone to head the finance ministry, a key post as deadlines approach for drafting the 2014 budget.

Rusnok is assembling a cabinet after the resignation of centre-right Prime Minister Petr Necas two weeks ago. Necas quit after his closest aide was charged with bribery and illegal spying on several people including the premier's estranged wife.

"We are nearing a conclusion," Rusnok said on Czech television. "We discussed (with Zeman's chancellor) organisational issues related to the appointment of the cabinet, most probably on Wednesday next week."

The appointment of Rusnok, who was finance minister in 2001-2002 administration led by Zeman, irked political parties which regard the move as a power grab by the president.

No party has so far declared support for Rusnok's cabinet, although the far-left Communists and a small centrist party have indicated they may provide their votes.

Rusnok said he wanted to keep the 2013 budget deficit below 3 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) and had no problem with the outgoing Necas' cabinet plan for next year's central state budget gap of 105 billion crowns (3.4 billion pounds).

He pledged to raise the minimum wage and said his government was not under any pressure to make a substantial decision in the multi-billion-dollar tender to expand the Temelin nuclear power plant.

Rusnok has selected several ministers from the leftist opposition Social Democrats, Zeman's former party, which still has a faction of Zeman supporters.

This has put pressure on Social Democrat chief Bohuslav Sobotka, who opposes Zeman's solution and demands an early election in the autumn, before a regular vote due in May next year.

If Rusnok loses the vote of confidence, Zeman should appoint another prime minister. But the constitution gives him no time limit to do so, and Rusnok may thus serve for several months.

The outgoing centre-right coalition says it has 101 votes in the 200-seat lower house and should be given the chance to form the next cabinet. The Social Democrats also demand that right.

(Reporting by Jan Lopatka and Jana Mlcochova; editing by Mark Heinrich)

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