Friday, 23 March 2018

HN: Babiš would not go into opposition after election

22 June 2016

Prague, June 21 (CTK) - Andrej Babis, Czech deputy prime minister and finance minister, would completely leave politics if his ANO movement did not get into the government after the 2017 general election, this ensues from an interview he gave to yesterday's issue of daily Hospodarske noviny (HN).
"If we do not win [the next general election] and end up in opposition, I will not be in opposition. This is ruled out. I cannot be sitting in a talking shop where some are playing at democracy," Babis told HN.
Babis, a billionaire businessman, said he would better focus on business and go travelling in his leisure time.
Babis, 61, entered high politics after the general election in 2013, when ANO gained 18.5 percent of the vote, trailing the winning Social Democrats (CSSD) by less than 2 percent.
Public opinion polls have long put ANO before the CSSD. However, even if ANO won, it could find itself in opposition similarly to Jiri Paroubek in 2010, when he headed the CSSD. He did not find any coalition partner and the government was formed by the rightist Civic Democrats (ODS), who were beaten in the election, HN writes.
Babis might face a similar problem after the next general election because he has been in a "war of words" over changes in the police with the CSSD who would probably be his closest partners in the team that will rule the country in 2017-21.
He has several times threatened with departure from the government or with withdrawal from the government coalition agreement, HN writes.
In connection with the prepared police restructuring, within which the anti-mafia and anti-corruption squads are to be merged, Babis has called Interior Minister Milan Chovanec (CSSD) of being "the godfather of godfathers," HN writes.
It writes that he has also said that Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (CSSD) lies.
In the interview, however, Babis has moderated his words saying that "there are also a number of decent people among the Social Democrats, one of whom is the prime minister."
The CSSD takes a pragmatic attitude to cooperation with Babis on the government level, which their deputy group's head Roman Sklenak indicated on Monday, too, HN writes.
"Though governance with ANO is very complicated and Mr Babis's attacks on us are very unpleasant, it is most important for us that the CSSD, which won 20 percent of the vote, has already pushed through the government coalition more than 80 percent of its manifesto," Sklenak said.
ANO's relations with its other government coalition partner, the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL), are not much better, HN writes and adds that Babis has repeatedly criticised the party's chairman and deputy prime minister for research, Pavel Belobradek.
Belobradek has, for instance, criticised Babis for his recent case involving EU subsidies for his Capi hnizdo (Stork's Next) conference centre.
"I see the reason in that Mr Belobradek does not have much to do at his artificially created office, he is bored, he is chatting with journalists via Twitter even at government meetings," the server quoted Babis as saying in March, HN writes.
If the general election next year again ended in a small difference between the gains of ANO and the CSSD, Babis would no longer reconcile himself to a smaller number of ministers, HN writes.
The CSSD now has eight ministers, ANO six and the KDU-CSL three.
"The current coalition agreement is bad. We were naive. Yesterday, we would try to negotiate a better agreement in order not to be rolled over in the government like now," Babis said.
Babis cannot even bet on President Milos Zeman, whom he hosted at his Capi hnizdo farm recently, the current controversy over police restructuring has shown, HN writes.
Zeman did invite both Babis and Chovanec to discuss the developments in his seat in Lany near Prague, but Chovanec signed the restructuring soon afterwards, HN writes.
"I hoped that the president will tell minister Chovanec to postpone the signature because the restructuring destroys two very important police squads," Babis said about the plan which has caused a big outcry on the political scene.
Zeman has publicly sided neither with Chovanec nor with Babis. He has only invited them to joint talks on this Wednesday again, HN writes.

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