Thursday, 19 October 2017

Respekt: Political crisis may strongly influence next gov't

ČTK |
16 May 2017

Prague, May 15 (CTK) - The current political crisis may have a crucial impact on the lineup of the next Czech government since the recent criticism of Finance Minister Andrej Babis in the Chamber of Deputies resulted in a strong condemnation of the ANO movement, Erik Tabery writes in weekly Respekt out on Monday.

It is unclear whether the latest developments will influence the popularity of ANO, which has been the clear favourite of the October general election for a long time. Voters change their preferences only very slowly and Babis has his own media that can help him deflect criticism, Tabery says.

Last week, the Chamber of Deputies issued a resolution that in fact says the ANO movement is not a democratic party. This resolution was pushed through by the government Social Democrats (CSSD) and Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL), and the opposition Mayors and Independents (centrist STAN), Civic Democrats (rightist ODS) and centre-right TOP 09. Would any of these parties be willing to join a future government led by Babis? Tabery says.

The wish to join a government is always stronger than the wish not to join it, however, the above democratic parties exerted huge energy to show that the things Babis did were bad, he writes.

These parties may hesitate to sit in Babis's government also because they know that Babis would create files about their problems and weaknesses and that he may tell his media what they should tell the public, Tabery writes, referring to controversial audio recordings that indicate that Babis used the media he owned against his political rivals.

Earlier this year, the billionaire Babis transferred his huge Agrofert holding, including media outlets, to trust funds to comply with a new conflict of interest law.

Moreover, ANO's potential coalition partners are likely to be aware of the fact that the strong alliance of Babis and President Milos Zeman may decide to expel any unpleasant partner from the government and rule the country without this partner, Tabery says.

In reaction to the strong criticism of Babis, ANO sticks together so much that it looks like a sect that worships an untouchable god, which discourages potential partners even more, Tabery writes.

He says ANO may rule the Czech Republic together with the Communists (KSCM) or Tomio Okamura (Freedom and Direct Democracy, SPD). It is a question whether Babis's voters would not mind this, Tabery adds.

Babis may also win over individual MPs from other parties who would support his government. The number of those who cross the floor may not be sufficient, however. The ANO movement also may not be ready to cope with a situation in which it would become unpopular in the country, Tabery writes.

He says the parties that rejected Babis will have the hard task of trying to persuade voters that they are a good alternative to Babis, that they learnt a lesson from their scandals and that they admit their mistakes, unlike ANO.

How will the CSSD, the KDU-CSL, STAN, the ODS and TOP 09 differentiate from one another? Especially TOP 09 and the KDU-CSL/STAN alliance will aim at the same voters. At the same time, an election failure of any of these parties would make their joint force weaker in parliament, Tabery writes.

Both for Czech parties and voters, the forthcoming elections will be the biggest strategic battle of the last 20 years, Tabery writes.

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