PRAGUE Czech police will delay a planned merger of its top anti-corruption units by a month after talks on Tuesday with government officials aimed at cooling a row in the ruling centre-left coalition over the reforms.
The wait on the police shuffle, a plan announced suddenly last week, may ease tensions in the three-party government after disputes over the changes raised risks of a coalition collapse before elections not due until the end of 2017.
Interior Minister Milan Chovanec, a member of the prime minister's Social Democrats, has backed the police president's planned merger and had intended to sign off on it despite objections from coalition partner ANO, led by billionaire Finance Minister Andrej Babis.
The plan would create a national bureau by joining organised and economic crime units. It has already led to the resignation of the head of the organised crime unit in protest.
Corruption in the political system has for years been at the top of voters' concerns, and Babis's anti-corruption drive helped it get the second most votes in a 2013 election that was his party's first national contest.
The plan took Babis and others in his party by surprise and also caught off guard state prosecutors, who are concerned the shuffle will hurt open cases and risk evidence leaking.
Babis had said this week that his party would call for Chovanec's resignation if he signed the plan before a coalition meeting on Wednesday that will discuss the reform. Chovanec has countered that ANO was politicising the police.
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka chaired a state security council meeting on Tuesday evening to discuss the reforms with police, court and government officials.
After the meeting, Pavel Belobradek, who leads the coalition's third party, the Christian Democrats, said police had agreed to wait until August to enact the changes.
CTK news agency reported that Chovanec would hold off for now on signing the plan.
That gives state prosecutors and others time to give their input. Court officials put forth their conditions concerning the reforms at the council meeting, CTK said.
(Reporting by Jason Hovet and Robert Muller)
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