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New Czech government takes office after swearing-in ceremony

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By Euronews  with AP, AFP
The new Czech five-party cabinet is led by Petr Fiala (L) of the Civic Democrats.
The new Czech five-party cabinet is led by Petr Fiala (L) of the Civic Democrats.   -   Copyright  CTK via AP Photo/Vit Simanek, pool   -  

The new Czech government has formally taken office after being sworn in by President Miloš Zeman.

The five-party coalition Cabinet will be led by Petr Fiala, the leader of the liberal-conservative three-party group known as Together.

Fiala replaces populist billionaire and former Prime Minister Andrej Babiš -- a close ally of President Zeman.

Together came in first at October's general election with 27.8% of the vote, narrowly defeating Babiš' centrist ANO (YES) movement.

The liberal-conservative group formed a parliamentary majority alongside the Pirate Party and STAN — a group of mayors and independent candidates.

The new Cabinet -- including three female ministers -- was sworn in at an official ceremony at the presidential chateaux in Lany, west of Prague.

Fiala has been tasked with managing the country's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as soaring inflation rates.

AP Photo/Petr David Josek
Petr Fiala (R) replaces populist Andrej Babis (L) as the Czech Republic's Prime Minister.AP Photo/Petr David Josek

Fiala -- a 57-year-old political science professor -- was formally sworn in as prime minister on November 28.

He has been the leader of the Civic Democratic Party since 2014 and has previously served as Czech education minister between 2012 and 2013.

“We don’t start at an easy situation,” Fiala said, “our country and its citizens face huge problems.”

The new health minister, Vlastimil Valek, has indicated the government was considering extending a 30-day state of emergency to tackle a record surge of coronavirus infections.

The government’s own candidate for agriculture minister, Zdenek Nekula, missed Friday’s swearing-in ceremony after he tested positive for the coronavirus.

Meanwhile, President Zeman had expressed reservations about the new foreign minister, Jan Lipavsky, but did finally decide to appoint him.

Despite their differences on many issues -- including climate change, same-sex marriage and the adoption of the euro -- the coalition parties all support the Czech Republic’s membership in the European Union and NATO membership.

The new Czech government has promised to present a plan to help residents affected by high energy prices, one of the factors behind high inflation that reached 6% in November.

It also plans to rework next year’s budget plan with a smaller deficit than the one proposed by the previous government.