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Czech parliament delays crucial dissolution vote

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Czech lawmakers said Friday they would postpone a vote to dissolve parliament until August 20, delaying the trigger for snap elections that could resolve a long-standing political crisis.

The move comes after the technocrat government of Prime Minister Jiri Rusnok lost a confidence vote Wednesday, less than a month into its tenure, after the previous centre-right government fell over a spy and bribery scandal.

Parliamentary speaker Miroslava Nemcova told Czech Television that debate on dissolving the legislature would begin on August 16 and would be followed by a vote on August 20.

The right-wing TOP 09 party, left-wing Social Democrats and far-left Communists who are pushing for the vote command 122 of 200 seats, enough to dissolve parliament.

The dissolution vote was originally scheduled for August 16 but head of the TOP 09 parliamentary caucus Petr Gazdik said some lawmakers would not be in parliament, necessitating the postponement.

"It's a narrow majority, some lawmakers have family issues or planned surgery," he said.

The political crisis erupted in June when then right-wing prime minister Petr Necas stepped down after his lover and chief-of-staff Jana Nagyova was arrested and charged with bribery and abuse of power.

To fill the vacuum, President Milos Zeman named a technocrat cabinet led by his friend Rusnok, snubbing rivals from parties in Necas's centre-right coalition government.

Left-winger Zeman would have preferred Rusnok to rule until regular elections next May and consolidate his power, according to analysts.

But Rusnok lost the confidence vote and TOP 09 -- the strongest party on the right -- teamed up with the Social Democrats, tipped as the election winner by pollsters, to petition for the dissolution vote.

Rusnok said Friday he would officially resign on August 13.

The Communists, who also signed the petition, hope to enter government for the first time since 1990, a year after communism fell in the former Czechoslovakia.

Under the constitution, parliament can only be dissolved with the president's consent, and he must set an election date to follow within 60 days.

Like much of Europe, the Czech Republic has been hit hard by the global financial crisis and has been in recession for a year and a half.

Analysts say the current political crisis has had little impact on the economy, which the Czech central bank expects to shrink by 1.5 percent this year.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130809/czech-parliament-delays-crucial-dissolution-vote