Czech government wins confidence vote

Czech government wins confidence vote

The Czech Republic's centre-right government led by Prime Minister Petr Necas, the result of general elections in May, on Tuesday won a confidence vote in parliament, dpa reported.

The three-party cabinet, which vowed to decrease the country's budget gap and reform pensions and health care, passed in a 118-82 vote in the 200-seat lower house.

The cabinet comprising the Necas-led centre-right Civic Democrats and two upstarts - the conservative TOP 09 and the populist Public Affairs parties - was appointed on July 13.

The key ministers are veteran political figures who served in the 2007-09 cabinet of ex-premier Mirek Topolanek: Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek and Defence Minister Alexandr Vondra.

Necas' team, which was criticized for not including any women, promised to set the Czech Republic on an austerity-driven, reformist course.

The 15-member cabinet plans to cut the budget deficit to the European Union-required 3 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2013 and balance the budget by 2016 through an unpopular mix of spending cuts and tax increases.

The ruling coalition also aims to overhaul pensions and health care and introduce tuition at state universities.

In a lengthy debate before the vote, the leftist opposition slammed the cabinet's plans as too tough on low-income earners, the middle class and families with children.

Necas told lawmakers that the planned reforms are inevitable and will "temporarily" hurt. But he vowed that the changes will be conducted with "a maximum possible social sensitivity."

"We do not want to fall into a debt trap like Greece, whose problems complicate life in the whole eurozone," Necas said. "It is foolish to claim that reforms are not necessary."

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