Czech rightwing party proposes woman for PM

The Czech right-wing Civic Democrats (ODS) party on Wednesday proposed parliament speaker Miroslava Nemcova for the post of prime minister following the resignation of Petr Necas amid a graft scandal.

If approved by coalition partners, President Milos Zeman and the parliament, Nemcova, 60, will become the first woman heading the Czech government in history.

"The ODS considers Miroslava Nemcova an experienced politician with a relevant moral and political credit... a person who is able to represent our country abroad," acting ODS chairman Martin Kuba told reporters.

"I have been through four parliamentary elections in 15 years and I have won support from both ODS members who nominated me and from voters," added Nemcova.

Zeman said he would hold talks with party leaders on the new prime minister from Friday to Monday and comment on the choice only after the talks.

But he added on Wednesday that "the president is here to name a new prime minister fast."

Necas, heading the faltering coalition government since July 2010, stepped down on Sunday over a bribery and spying scandal involving his top aide and alleged lover.

His ODS has said it will choose a candidate to lead a government built around the current three-party coalition also comprising the right-wing TOP 09 and centrist LIDEM parties until the next regular elections in May 2014.

Miroslav Kalousek, outgoing finance minister and vice-chairman of the TOP 09 party, said Nemcova was "an excellent personal nomination."

"I will be honoured to sit in the government with her," he said, adding however Nemcova would be hard to replace as head of parliament.

Josef Mlejnek, a political analyst at Charles University in Prague, told AFP Nemcova would be "rather something like an interim prime minister heading a sort of a caretaker government... as her position within her party is not too strong."

The graft scandal that toppled Necas erupted last Thursday when 400 policemen raided the cabinet office, defence ministry, private villas and a bank in a dramatic swoop that turned up large stashes of illicit cash and gold.

Jana Nagyova, Necas's chief of staff and alleged lover, was arrested during the raid and charged with bribery and complicity in the abuse of power.

Seven other senior figures including military intelligence heads and former lawmakers were also charged with corruption and abuse of power.

Dubbed "Mr. Clean" for his high-profile anti-corruption drive, Necas was forced to resign on Monday.

If the ODS candidate is not approved, the country would likely face early elections which the left-wing Social Democrats would win according to opinion polls, sweeping the ODS and their allies out of power.

An EU member of 10.5 million people, the Czech Republic has been plagued by corruption since it emerged as an independent state after its 1993 split with Slovakia -- a legacy of four decades of totalitarian communist rule.

Last year, corruption watchdog Transparency International ranked the Czech Republic worse than Costa Rica and Rwanda.