Jiri Rusnok, new Czech PM, faces instant opposition

Czech President Milos Zeman (right) celebrates after swearing in new Prime Minister Jiri Rusnok (left) Jiri Rusnok (left) is a long-time ally of Milos Zeman (right)

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Czech President Milos Zeman has sworn in a new cabinet despite the opposition of the main parties in parliament.

New Prime Minister Jiri Rusnok replaces Petr Necas, who resigned last month amid a corruption and spying scandal.

But there is significant doubt about whether his new "government of experts" will win a confidence vote due within 30 days.

Critics accuse President Zeman of trying to grab powers from parliament for the presidency.

The new cabinet comprises 14 men and one woman.

Mr Zeman invited them to Prague Castle on a sweltering summer morning for their formal appointment as ministers.

Analysis

When Milos Zeman became the country's first directly elected president in March he warned he would not be a mere spectator in the rough and tumble sport of Czech politics. He meant every word.

Mr Zeman has seized the initiative in the vacuum left by the spectacular fall of Petr Necas, installing his own economic adviser Jiri Rusnok and a "government of experts".

The 15-member cabinet may be unelected but it's far from apolitical - several ministers served in previous governments, some are close to the party Milos Zeman founded in 2009.

The cabinet may lack a parliamentary majority but it can still take major decisions, such as awarding a multi-billion-euro tender to expand the Temelin nuclear power plant.

The speaker of parliament described the government as "toxic" and boycotted the appointment ceremony. She is not alone in her anger.

He thanked them for taking on the task, and advised them to ignore the criticism of what he called "invidious fools".

After clinking glasses of champagne, they boarded a bus to lay flowers at the grave of Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, the spiritual father of Czechoslovak democracy.

'Putinesque'

However, critics fear that democracy could be undermined by the appointment of Mr Rusnok, a long-time leftist ally of the president.

"I reject the government as a whole because it bypassed the parliament and has been standing in opposition to it," parliament speaker Miroslava Nemcova said on Wednesday.

Without the support of either the three parties of the outgoing centre-right coalition or of the leftist opposition, the government looks unlikely to win a confidence vote.

MPs have expressed fears that, although Mr Zeman is supposed then to appoint another new prime minister, he might drag out the process, leaving Mr Rusnok's team in place for many months to carry out the president's wishes.

They have accused Mr Zeman of trying to introduce a semi-presidential system, which the outgoing finance minister has called "Putinesque".

It comes as the Czech Republic is trying to recover from an 18-month recession.

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