May 31, 2018 / 2:16 PM / 24 days ago

UPDATE 1-Czech caretaker PM Babis to get new shot at forming government next week

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PRAGUE, May 31 (Reuters) - Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis, ruling in a caretaker capacity, will be appointed government leader again on June 6, he said on Thursday after meeting President Milos Zeman.

The appointment will give Babis right to propose a new cabinet and seek a vote of confidence in parliament, which he said he expected after July 10.

“The president informed me he will appoint me on June 6...and then I will have a deadline to present the government,” Babis said after meeting the president.

The central European country has been without a fully-fledged administration since an election last October.

The populist ANO party led by the billionaire businessman Babis won the most votes but feel short of a majority. It has so far failed to find majority support because most parties refuse to join a cabinet led by Babis, who faces criminal charges of abusing EU subsidies a decade ago.

He calls the investigation a plot.

Babis’s current one-party cabinet failed to win a confidence vote in January but has since lingered on in a caretaker capacity.

In parliament, it has cooperated with the far-left Communists as well as the far-right, anti-EU and anti-NATO Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) party.

ANO has struck a preliminary deal to form a new government coalition with the centre-left Social Democrats, but that still requires approval by Social Democrat party members in a referendum running until June 14.

The result of the referendum is uncertain, as many Social Democrat members fear ANO would be ready to bypass them and push legislation through with the extremist SPD.

An ANO-Social Democrat cabinet would need the parliamentary backing of the far-left Communists to have majority in the 200-seat lower house of parliament.

The pro-Russian Communists have however been protesting plans by the coalition to send troops to NATO partner Lithuania this and next year, and have threatened to walk away form the government deal.

The lower house will vote on a mandate for foreign military missions on Friday.

Babis has said any government he forms would have a pro-western policy agenda, keep budgets close to balance and raise investments into infrastructure.

However, if the deal with the Social Democrats falls through, he may be forced to look for support from both the far-left and far-right groups. (Reporting by Jan Lopatka and Jason Hovet; Editing by Toby Chopra)

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