New Czech minority government fails to win confidence vote

Czech Republic's Prime Minister Andrej Babis arrives for a Parliament session in Prague, Czech Republic, Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018. Czech Republic's Parliament gathered for a confidence vote for a newly appointed government led by Babis. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
Czech Republic's lawmakers start a Parliament session in Prague, Czech Republic, Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018. Czech Republic's Parliament gathered for a confidence vote for a newly appointed government led by Prime Minister Andrej Babis. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
Czech Republic's Prime Minister Andrej Babis speaks on the phone during a Parliament session in Prague, Czech Republic, Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018. Czech Republic's Parliament gathered for a confidence vote for a newly appointed government led by Babis. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
Czech Republic's Prime Minister Andrej Babis speaks on the phone during a Parliament session in Prague, Czech Republic, Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018. Czech Republic's Parliament gathered for a confidence vote for a newly appointed government led by Babis. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

PRAGUE — Populist billionaire Andrej Babis' new Czech minority government failed to win a mandatory confidence vote Tuesday in the lower house of Parliament and has to resign.

Only 78 lawmakers voted in favor of the government while 117 were against. The loss was expected because the government lacks a majority.

President Milos Zeman, Babis' ally, said he would ask him to form a government again.

Babis didn't immediately comment on the loss.

Babis' ANO (YES) centrist movement won October's parliamentary election with 78 seats in the 200-seat house. His government of ANO members and independent experts was appointed in December.

But none of the eight other parties that have seats in parliamentary has agreed to create a coalition government with ANO because they consider Babis unsuitable to lead the government due to fraud charges he has been facing linked to EU subsidies.

In another blow for the prime minister, a parliamentary committee recommended Tuesday that lawmakers strip Babis of his parliamentary immunity and that police be allowed to continue their investigation into his fraud case. It is not clear yet when a vote might happen but it is expected in days.

The case involves a farm that received an EU subsidy after its ownership was transferred from the Agrofert conglomerate of some 250 companies that belonged to Babis to Babis' family members. The EU farm subsidy was meant for medium and small businesses.

Acting at the request of police, lawmakers in the lower house already agreed to lift the immunity from prosecution for Babis and his deputy in ANO, Jaroslav Faltynek, in September. That decision allowed police to investigate Babis' involvement in the $2 million fraud and charge him.

Both Babis and Faltynek deny wrongdoing.

Following the election, it was necessary for the new lawmakers to again lift Babis' immunity from prosecution to allow police to complete the investigation.

An EU report into the case that was not published but leaked to local media seemed to support the Czech investigators.

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