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Politics

Future of Czech government left hanging

A junior partner in the Czech Republic's three-party coalition has called on its cabinet ministers to quit. The action, stemming from a dispute with the prime minister, puts the government's future in doubt.

The decision was announced by Liberal Democrats (LIDEM) party leader Karolina Peake (pictured above with Prime Minister Petr Necas) Thursday, shortly after she was removed from her position as defense minister earlier in the day. Peake first took office just over a week ago.

LIDEM's three cabinet ministers are to resign on January 10, Peake said.

The move also comes after a vote in the lower house of parliament Wednesday where the coalition passed bills to increase taxes and cut the 2013 budget deficit.

Defense minister let go

Peake was shown the door by Necas because of her personnel decisions, he said. The prime minister was upset with her choice to fire top officials within the defense department.

"My confidence in her dropped not to zero but into negative readings," said Necas at a news conference. "Madam Minister acted as if the ministry was conquered enemy territory … it was a stabilized, well-functioning department, there was no reason for any spasm."

Necas' Civic Democratic Party and the conservative TOP09 party - who along with LIDEM made up the country's center-right coalition - will continue to govern.

A shrinking coalition

LIDEM's exit could weaken the already minority administration a year and a half ahead of a planned mid-2014 election.

The government coalition holds only 98 out of the 200 seats in the lower house - eight of which belong to LIDEM - and relies on independents to pass legislation.

The coalition began its four-year term in 2010 with 118 seats, but that majority has dwindled amid infighting.

The Czech Republic's main opposition party, the center-left Social Democrats, called a meeting on Friday to discuss whether to call a vote of no-confidence.

dr/msh (Reuters, dpa, AP)