Czech no confidence vote looming

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iol news pic Petr Necas Czech PM REUTERS Czech Republic's Prime Minister Petr Necas. REUTERS/David W Cerny

Prague - The Czech Republic's left-wing opposition said Thursday it would launch a parliamentary no-confidence motion against the centre-right government after it approved a controversial mass amnesty.

Prime Minister Petr Necas counter-signed the amnesty decreed on January 1 by outgoing President Vaclav Klaus, a move expected to free around 7,400 people, including some jailed or on trial in major fraud cases.

The number represents about a third of all prisoners serving time in Czech jails.

“The amnesty will free the masterminds of big business cases including asset-stripping at banks and companies, privatisation fraud or tax evasion worth billions,” said Bohuslav Sobotka, chairman of the opposition Social Democrats, terming it “a scandal.”

“We have only one way to react under our constitutional system... The Social Democrats will initiate a vote of no-confidence in the government of Petr Necas in the next few days,” he told reporters.

They need at least 101 votes in the 200-seat parliament to topple Necas's three-party coalition, which has so far survived seven confidence votes since taking office in July 2010.

Although backing for his government has dwindled to 98 votes from an initial 118, the austerity-minded Necas has survived by relying on the support of former allies now sitting as independents.

Necas's latest test came in November when he survived a bid by rebels within his own party to bring him down over a tax bill.

The sweeping presidential amnesty, granted to mark the 20th anniversary of former Czechoslovakia's split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia, applies mostly to prisoners serving terms of less than a year and those over 75 who have sentences under 10 years.

The amnesty will also put a halt to legal proceedings that have lasted over eight years, provided that the maximum possible sentence is not over 10 years.

Public uproar over the amnesty is focused, among others, on prominent businessman Tomas Pitr, who is being prosecuted for suspected tax fraud, and former Czech football association chief Frantisek Chvalovsky, suspected of embezzling the equivalent of 60 million euros ($78 million).

An ex-communist country of 10.5 million people, the Czech Republic joined the European Union in 2004. - Sapa-AFP

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