(Adds Mladek comment, media report of replacement)
PRAGUE Feb 20 Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav
Sobotka said on Monday he was firing his industry minister,
accusing him of getting a poor deal for mobile phone customers.
The removal of Jan Mladek comes just eight months before
parliamentary elections, as Sobotka takes increasing aim at
mobile operators. He said this month that Czech prices as a
share of household spending were among the four highest in the
Sobotka told a news conference he had grown unsatisfied with
the way Mladek handled the ministry, "especially when it comes
to improving consumers' situation on the mobile services
He said he wanted to have a replacement in March. News
website Aktualne.cz reported Tomas Prouza, who is the
government's secretary of state for European Union affairs and
runs the cabinet's digital agenda, was the likely candidate.
The three main mobile operators, O2 Czech Republic
, T-Mobile and Vodafone, have come
under increasing fire from politicians over their charges.
Mladek, a member of Sobotka's Social Democratic Party, has
served in the centre-left government since it was formed in
January 2014. He rejected the criticism of his performance.
The Social Democrats trail Finance Minister Andrej Babis's
ANO party by a wide margin in polls ahead of the October vote.
Babis and Mladek have often sparred with each other. On
Monday, Mladek failed to push through a proposal for a
state-owned mining company to buy insolvent hard coal miner OKD,
which Babis opposed.
President Milos Zeman, an opponent of Sobotka, must sign off
on the cabinet change and could delay or refuse to appoint
Sobotka's proposed replacement.
Zeman's spokesman went on Twitter on Monday to criticise
Prouza for his connections to groups opposed to Zeman.
(Reporting by Robert Muller; Editing by Mark Trevelyan; Writing
by Jason Hovet; Editing by Ralph Boulton)