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Sign of the times as COVID-positive president appoints new Czech PM

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By Euronews with AFP, AP
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Czech President Milos Zeman, in a transparent cube because he tested positive to COVID-19, appoints Petr Fiala as Czech Prime Minister near Prague, 28 November, 2021.
Czech President Milos Zeman, in a transparent cube because he tested positive to COVID-19, appoints Petr Fiala as Czech Prime Minister near Prague, 28 November, 2021.   -   Copyright  Roman Vondrous/AP

Czech centre-right opposition leader Petr Fiala has been appointed as the country's new prime minister on Sunday after October legislative elections ousted billionaire Andrej Babis.

President Milos Zeman who is in a wheelchair and suffering from COVID-19, led the unusual ceremony from his Prague residence, protected by a plastic barrier.

"I am convinced that we will soon have a strong and stable government", said Fiala at the ceremony, which was broadcast live on television.

Fiala's party teamed up with a centre-left liberal coalition made up of the Pirate Party and STAN — a group of mayors and independent candidates — which came in third place at the election with 15.6% of votes.

The new partnership will hold 108 seats in the 200-seat lower house of Parliament, relegating populist Babis and his centrist ANO (YES) movement to the opposition.

The five parties in the future governing coalition have agreed on a power-sharing deal. They are closer to the European Union than Euroskeptic Babis.

Fiala, 57, who has led the conservative Civic Democratic Party since 2014, is a professor of political sciences. Previously, he served as Education Minister between 2012-13.

It’s not immediately clear when Zeman might appoint the entire Cabinet. Zeman said he will meet the candidates for the ministers between Monday and Dec 13 to discuss their future jobs.

The ceremony had originally been due to take place on Friday. The appointment comes after Czech President Milos Zeman left hospital on Saturday.

The head of state was discharged from hospital on Thursday after being admitted on October 10 but had to be rushed back in after testing positive for coronavirus.

He was first admitted in intensive care the day after legislative elections and stayed for more than three weeks before being transferred to a convalescence unit.

He accepted on November 11 the formal resignation of the government of the populist outgoing Prime Minister, billionaire Andrej Babis, following his electoral defeat.

The eastern European country of 10.7 million people is grappling with a record daily increase in the number of infections, which led the government to announce new restrictions on Thursday, including the closure of restaurants, bars and nightclubs at night, as well as all Christmas markets.