PRAGUE: The Czech parliament convened Thursday for its fifth no-confidence vote in less than three years, which the centre-right government of Prime Minister Petr Necas is widely expected to survive.
The left-wing opposition launched the motion in response to Necas's endorsement of a sweeping presidential amnesty freeing that has so far seen more than 6,000 prisoners freed including some held over major fraud cases.
The motion comes ahead of the second round of presidential polls, due January 25-26, pitting the ex-Communist former prime minister Milos Zeman against conservative Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg.
Decreed by outgoing President Vaclav Klaus on January 1 and applying to a total of around 7,400 people, the controversial amnesty has sparked outrage among both opposition and voters in the ex-communist European Union member state of 10.5 million people.
Bohuslav Sobotka, chairman of the opposition Social Democrats, charged in parliament Thursday that the amnesty applied to cases of "economic crime" and called the government's endorsement of it "a failure".
Necas's wobbly, austerity-oriented administration has survived previous no-confidence motions, launched by the opposition mostly over graft allegations and unpopular austerity cuts, as well as three confidence motions tabled by the premier himself.
Its latest test came in November, when it survived a bid by rebels within Necas' own party to bring him down over a tax bill.
The administration is likely to stay intact after Thursday's vote thanks to the support of non-aligned lawmakers.
The opposition needs at least 101 votes in the 200-seat parliament to bring down Necas's three-party coalition.
Necas on Wednesday accused the opposition of merely using the amnesty as a "pretext" to launch a confidence motion.
As in previous votes, the session starting at 0900 GMT is likely to last long into the night with fiery debates.
The Czech Republic has been mired in recession for a year, with its central bank predicting moderate 0.2-percent economic growth in 2013. Joblessness stood at 9.4 percent in December.