The Czech prime minister and his government have formally resigned, bringing the country a step closer to early elections. Parliament still has to dissolve itself before these can go ahead.
Prime Minister Jiri Rusnok tendered his resignation to President Milos Zeman on Tuesday, almost a week after his government had lost a confidence vote in parliament.
After accepting the resignation, President Zeman said he had asked Rusnok and his Cabinet to stay on until it could be replaced by a government that "hopefully will emerge from free elections."
The next step down the road to a snap vote is for parliament to dissolve itself. Three political parties, which together hold a majority, have requested a dissolution vote, which is to be held on August 20.
If the president consents to the dissolution of parliament, he would have to call a fresh election within 60 days. Zeman, who in January became the Czech Republic's first directly elected president, indicated over the weekend that his consent was assured.
"I have no reason to unnecessarily put off the declaration on the dissolution of parliament," he said.
When Zeman appointed Rusnok, an economist and old political ally, to the job, on July 10, he had likely hoped that the government of technocrats would serve until regularly scheduled elections next May.
Zeman's appointment of Rusnok came against the wishes of the main parties in parliament, however, and the two sides have been at loggerheads ever since.
Rusnok's Cabinet replaced the center-right government of Petr Necas, who was forced to step down amid a political scandal after his chief of staff and alleged mistress, Jana Nagyova, was charged with bribery and abuse of power.
pfd/mkg ( AFP, dpa, Reuters)