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Czech Social Democrats pledge to cut tax for workers, tighten control of big business

* Social Democrats
promise tax cuts for workers, other incentives

* Party vows to tax big banks’ assets

* For opinion polls table click on

By Robert Muller

PRAGUE, June 17 The Social Democrats, the senior partner in the
Czech Republic’s ruling coalition but trailing in the polls,
will try to lure back voters before the October elections by
offering tax cuts for workers while tightening control of big
business.

The party unveiled its election programme days after Prime
Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said he would step down as leader of
the country’s oldest party in an attempt to reverse its slide
in opinion polls.

In its programme, the party promised to cut taxes for
employees, extend holidays to five weeks, raise the minimum
wage to at least 16,000 crowns ($685) a month by 2022 and other
incentives.

It also repeated a pledge from previous elections to introduce
progressive taxation on big banks’ assets and to clamp down on
tax evasion by big business conglomerates.

In an attempt to shake things up, Sobotka proposed this week
that his more popular and eloquent foreign minister, Lubomir
Zaoralek, should lead the party’s campaign into the Oct. 20-21
general election.

Zaoralek said on Saturday that the country needed consensus at
home to make progress.

“The Left will not be convincing if it will not honour national
interests,” he said, adding that the party could also borrow
the slogan “to help and to protect” from police cars.

Although the government has presided over a growing economy
that helped it deliver the first balanced budget in two
decades, the Social Democrats have slipped in the polls behind
their main rival and coalition partner ANO.

All recent polls have shown ANO leading the Social Democrats,
in some cases by a double-digit margin.

ANO was founded and is chaired by billionaire and former
Finance Minister Andrej Babis, who has attracted voters with
his managerial approach to governing and with his image as a
political outsider.

The parties, together with the Christian Democrats, came to
power in a centre-left coalition in January 2014 and are on
course to becoming the first government in 15 years in the
central European country to finish its term. ($1 = 23.3500
Czech crowns) (Reporting by Robert Muller; Editing by Adrian
Croft)


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