Re-elected Czech President Milos Zeman attends the inauguration ceremony at Prague Castle in Prague, Czech Republic, March 8, 2018. REUTERS/David W Cerny/File Photo

  • President Zeman expects to appoint opposition leader as PM
  • Zeman says he wants new government in place as soon as possible
  • Zeman has been hospitalised since Oct. 10

PRAGUE, Nov 5 (Reuters) – Hospitalised Czech President Milos Zeman expects to appoint opposition leader Petr Fiala as prime minister, he said in his first public remarks since the central European country’s parliamentary election last month.

Zeman, who was rushed to hospital on Oct. 10 with an undisclosed condition, said in a telephone interview from hospital on Frekvence 1 radio taped on Friday that he felt well and was ready to complete his mandate until 2023, although his doctors said he required further time in hospital.

Under the constitution, Zeman has the right to appoint a prime minister of his choice.

The 77-year-old had previously said he would let the strongest individual party, which is outgoing Prime Minister Andrej Babis’s ANO, the first chance to form a government, although ANO does not have a majority or partners willing to form one with it.

That and the president’s condition had led to uncertainty over what would happen next.

But Zeman said he was ready to appoint the centre-right Together coalition’s Fiala, whom he was due to speak to on Saturday, after the new parliament meets next week and Babis resigns as he has said he will do.

“At the moment the topic is mainly appointing Petr Fiala as prime minister. Several steps must take place toward that,” Zeman said.

“I believe there will be no problem there, you know why? Because Andrej Babis, whom I spoke to a little while ago on the telephone, is not interested in being prime minister as nobody is willing to negotiate with him,” he said.

Friday’s assessment by Zeman’s medical team was that the president’s condition has improved but the outlook for his recovery was uncertain and he could not work fully at the moment.

This was an improvement from last month when the hospital said he could not work at all, sparking debate over whether parliament should strip him of his powers, including the right to appoint the government.

Top surgeon Pavel Pafko, a member of Zeman’s medical team who had also treated former Czech President Vaclav Havel, told Czech Radio that Zeman was suffering from chronic liver disease, for the first time confirming unsourced reports in Czech media.

He said Zeman was being treated to improve his nutrition, and would likely require another three or four weeks in hospital.

There was no immediate comment from Zeman’s spokesman.

The Together coalition and a centrist grouping of the Pirate Party and the Mayors movement combined won 108 seats in the 200-seat lower house in the election.

They reached a coalition agreement this week, pledging to cut the budget deficit to 3% of gross domestic product from over 7% this year, make small steps towards eventually adopting the euro and reaffirm the country’s pro-NATO and pro-EU stance.

The government faces a new wave of coronavirus infections, a spike in inflation including energy prices, sharp interest rate hikes and challenges for the industrialised and coal-dependent country stemming from the European Union’s climate goals.

Reporting by Robert Muller and Jan Lopatka; Editing by Toby Chopra, William Maclean, Hugh Lawson and Nick Macfie

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