The Czech prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka has made a U-turn on his decision earlier this week to resign along with his government, saying he now aims only to dismiss his billionaire finance minister and political rival, Andrej Babis.
Friday’s change of heart came after Mr Sobotka met Czech president Milos Zeman, who declined to accept the resignation of the entire government but only that of the prime minister. That would have left Mr Babis – who has faced questions from Mr Sobotka over his business practices and whether he avoided taxes – in place.
“In such a situation, my resignation does not make any sense,” Mr Sobotka told reporters. “The finance minister, burdened by extensive scandals, would remain in the government.”
Mr Babis has denied any wrongdoing. His Ano party is well ahead of Mr Sobotka’s social democrats in opinion polls ahead of elections scheduled for October. The two parties are part of a three-way coalition.
The dispute with Mr Zeman over the proposed government resignation represents a clash over how the Czech constitution should be interpreted. It also suggests that what analysts called a gamble by the premier, apparently aimed at narrowing the polling gap with Mr Babis’ party, may have backfired.
A spokesman for Mr Zeman said he would now consider whether to approve the finance minister’s dismissal.