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The post-election stalemate in the Czech Republic extended further after the country’s president tested positive for Covid-19 and was discharged to hospital hours after being released after 46 days of treatment for an illness unbound.

Miloš Zeman was rushed to the Prague Central Military Hospital on Thursday evening, prompting his staff to cancel a meeting on Friday in which he was due to appoint Petr Fiala as prime minister, replacing Andrej Babiš who did not was not re-elected to this post.

Zeman, 77, who is believed to have chronic liver problems, allegedly contracted the virus from a presidential staff member, who was said to have been his personal nurse. He was reportedly asymptomatic, having recently received a Covid booster.

During his lengthy hospital stay, members of Zeman’s staff were photographed meeting him without a breathing mask, in violation of Covid hospital rules.

Thursday’s announcement was met with widespread astonishment on social media, with further calls for parliament to invoke a constitutional clause that would allow it to declare the president unfit to exercise his powers so that a new administration can quickly take office.

In response, Zeman spokesman Jiří Ovčáček announced that the president would be dismissed again on Saturday and that his long-delayed meeting with Fiala, the leader of a center-right group, Spolu, would take place. Sunday.

Even this meeting at the presidential campaign retreat from Lány Castle will not lead to the immediate swearing-in of the proposed new government, a coalition between Spol and Pir-STAN, a bloc of liberal parties.

Zeman insisted on meeting each cabinet candidate personally, a process expected to take more than two weeks, and said he would attempt to veto at least one minister, who would be Jan Lipavský, the proposed foreign minister. , who pledged a hard line with Russia and China – countries with which the president has cultivated close ties.

Zeman’s position has sparked accusations of deliberately dragging his feet as the Czech Republic scrambles to contain a fifth wave of Covid infections. A record 27,717 cases were recorded on Thursday, the third time this week that the number of daily infections has reached a new peak. The infection rate of 1,231 per 100,000 inhabitants is the highest in Europe after neighboring Slovakia.

“You have this artificial delay,” said Jiří Pehe, political scientist and director of New York University in Prague, who compared Zeman’s hospital meetings with the President of Slovakia, Zuzana Čaputová, and Babiš with an apparent reluctance to meet Fiala.

“If he could meet the Slovak president, he could have met Fiala and he could also have met the ministerial candidates,” said Pehe. “But he didn’t do it so obviously that he’s dragging his feet. It obstructs when the country is in crisis.

Zeman was admitted to intensive care on October 10, a day after a surprise election defeat for Babiš’s ANO party, which he pledged to support. His condition rendered him unable to fulfill the constitutional role of the president in appointing a new government. Despite two official medical reports declaring him too ill to fully exercise his functions, Parliament refused to invoke article 66 of the constitution which would have allowed deputies to temporarily seize his powers.

The stalemate also means that the Babiš administration continues as an interim government, but its authority is diminishing as the Covid situation worsens.

With many hospitals filled to capacity and canceling non-emergency operations, the Babis government declared a state of emergency on Thursday, including a ban on Christmas markets and orders to close pubs and restaurants at 10 p.m. time. However, he ruled out a new lockdown.

theguardian Gt

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