Sunday, 17 December 2017

New government is hardly possible without Babiš

ČTK |
19 September 2017

Prague, Sept 18 (CTK) - The expectations of some people that a new Czech government will be formed without ANO leader Andrej Babis after the October general election are unrealistic, Erik Tabery writes in the weekly Respekt out on Monday.

Even if the highly popular ANO movement won only 25 percent of the vote, a government could hardly be formed without Babis because the popularity of all other parties is markedly lower than that of ANO. The poor performance of the leaders of these parties is to blame for this, Tabery writes.

He says it is rather common that a part of society becomes enchanted with a populist, but the fact that the other parties are not very attractive for the rest of the voters shows that the problem is much wider.

Even if some voters move away from Babis, who faces criminal prosecution, the populist Tomio Okamura (Freedom and Direct Democracy, SPD) is likely to win them over. The Communist Party (KSCM) will probably be rather strong, Tabery writes, indicating that the traditional democratic parties may not hold a majority in the Chamber of Deputies after the elections.

If a government without Babis were to be formed, it would have to comprise the Social Democrats (CSSD), the Christian Democratic Union (KDU-CSL), the Civic Democrats (ODS), TOP 09, and possibly the Pirates who have a chance to enter parliament for the first time. To win a majority, such a coalition government might even need support from the Communists, Tabery writes.

He says such an alliance would not be viable. Even if the parties managed to reach agreement, their government would not be very good since there are considerable differences between their programmes, he adds.

Moreover, the formation of such a coalition would confirm Babis's claim that other parties try to get rid of him at all costs, Tabery writes.

It is more probable that the question is who ANO's coalition partners will be, he says.

Babis's government with the KSCM or Okamura or the rule of ANO and Vaclav Klaus Jr (ODS) might challenge the direction in which the country has been developing, especially the active Czech membership of the European Union, Tabery writes.

It would be much better if Babis allied with parties that have a different programme so that there is a tension requiring compromises in the government, Tabery writes.

Among the democratic parties, only the CSSD and the KDU-CSL said they were ready to rule together with ANO.

The CSSD, ANO and the KDU-CSL have been ruling the country since 2014, but Babis was dismissed from the government in May 2017 due to suspicions related to his business activities.

Tabery says the right-wing opposition ODS and TOP 09 and the Mayors and Independents (STAN) claimed that they would never form a government with ANO, though a part of the ODS, including Klaus Jr, does not share this view.

Each party must make its own decision whether to ally with Babis or not, and this decision cannot be labelled a betrayal of trust or a refusal to bear responsibility. The voters know what the individual parties want and they may act accordingly. If they, for example, want the democratic right to be part of the government, they may cast their votes for the Christian Democrats, while if they are looking for somebody who will by no means ally with Babis, they may choose TOP 09, Tabery writes.

He says both alternatives have pros and cons and the life of those who decide to ally with Babis certainly will be harder because they will also be responsible for the steps taken by Babis.

ANO is not a standard party, but a project in which political and economic interests are entwined and in which Babis has the main say in everything. The increasing influence of the huge Agrofert concern, owned by Babis, on the Czech state and the penetration of Agrofert employees in state bodies and offices is dangerous, Tabery writes.

KDU-CSL chairman Pavel Belobradek says he is ready to form a government with ANO if the prosecuted Babis is not a member of the government. But this solution would be just a political trick because Babis would control his party and the government anyway, Tabery writes.

The Polish model, which Belobradek mentioned in this context, does not fit because Poland does not have a coalition government, yet it illustrates the problem well. The fact that Law and Justice most influential figure Jaroslaw Kaczynski is not a cabinet member but controls the government from his office causes a lot of trouble, Tabery writes.

In fact, a Czech coalition government controlled by Babis from the backstage would be the worst possibility of all, he concludes.

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