Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka announced his resignation on Tuesday, May 2 in a surprise press conference to address an ongoing dispute with the country’s Finance Minister Andrej Babiš.
Sobotka has called on Babiš to explain past financial deals. He accused the finance minister of using “tax tricks or even tax evasion” in issuing tax-free bonds for his businesses.
Speaking on Tuesday, Sobotka said “I will shortly present my resignation to President Milos Zeman. It is unacceptable for Andrej Babis to stay on as finance minister.”
Zeman has no deadline to accept or reject the resignation, and Sobotka’s resignation means that his cabinet will automatically leave with him.
The Czech Republic is scheduled to hold new elections in October.
#BREAKING Czech premier Sobotka quits after row with finance minister
— AFP news agency (@AFP) May 2, 2017
Babis is the Czech Republic’s second-most wealthy citizen, according to Forbes. He founded Agrofert, a Czech conglomerate, in 1993, and was its CEO until 2014 when he became finance minister. Babis remains the company’s largest shareholder.
Sobotka asked last week for Babis to clarify how he used 55 million euros ($60 million) in tax-free bonds for Agrofert operations. Babis denies any wrongdoing and has insisted thats Sobotka’s questioning is part of the “political battle” ahead of the October elections.
“The suspicions regarding the finance minister jeopardize not only the proper functioning of the government but also the very credibility of the state.”
Babiš is the leader of the centrist ANO party which he helped found in 2012, while Sobotka is of the liberal-conservative Social Democratic Party. Babis’ ANO party leads the Social Democrats in opinion polling. A three-party coalition government has run the country after Sobotka’s party took office in 2014.
Babiš told reporters last Thursday the he would quit if the prime minister asked him to, but later took back the comment. Sobotka had given the finance minister until the end of the month to provide an explanation about his taxes.