Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Babiš, Zaorálek clash in final duel before Czech elections

ČTK |
20 October 2017

Prague, Oct 19 (CTK) - The election leaders of the two biggest Czech parties, ANO chairman Andrej Babis and Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek (Social Democrats, CSSD), blamed one another for low salaries in the country and anti-corruption struggle in a televised duel that Nova TV broadcast live last night.

Babis said he can imagine further government cooperation of his ANO movement with the CSSD, while Zaoralek said the Social Democrats could rule the country with ANO only if it deal with the criminal prosecution of Babis over a suspected EU subsidy fraud.

Zaoralek called Babis a parasite in connection with the work of the cabinet. "He pretends that all that was good about the government was him," Zaoralek said in reaction to Babis’s criticism of the outgoing government that comprises the CSSD, ANO and the smaller Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL).

Babis is a predator who insolently liquidated his competition, Zaoralek said. He said the financial authorities issued property-freezing orders that liquidated companies that were rivals of firms from the giant Agrofert holding.

Babis dismissed the allegation and said it was a lie that he misused freezing orders to get rid of business competition.

Billionaire Babis was the sole owner Agrofert associating mainly agriculture, chemical and food-processing firms and media outlets. Earlier this year he was forced to transfer the holding to trust funds.

Babis was finance minister until May, but he had to leave the cabinet due to his controversial financial transactions, alleged misuse of media against his political rivals and a suspected subsidy fraud.

ANO is the clear favourite of the election that will take place on Friday and Saturday. Opinion polls indicate that ANO is likely to win two times more votes than the CSSD, which may be narrowly overcome by the Communists (KSCM) and possibly even the Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) movement of populist Tomio Okamura or the right-wing Civic Democrats (ODS).

Babis and Zaoralek talked about the economy, planned tax changes, higher salaries, a pension reform and measures to curb corruption.

Babis said the CSSD is full of corrupt politicians.

Babis repeatedly said the traditional parties led by the CSSD plotted against him because they feared that ANO would break their corrupt networks from which they were profiting.

Zaoralek asked Babis how much money he made when he produced half of the butter in the country.

Czech parties have been arguing in the election campaign why the prices of butter went steeply up and who is to blame for it.

The Babis vs Zaoralek political duel was moderated by Rey Koranteng, it lasted about an hour an a half and no audience was in the studio. When the discussion ended, the two leaders were driven to the Czech Television (CT) to join the final discussion of the leaders of the ten most popular Czech parties.

Copyright 2015 by the Czech News Agency (ČTK). All rights reserved.
Copying, dissemination or other publication of this article or parts thereof without the prior written consent of ČTK is expressly forbidden. The Prague Daily Monitor is not responsible for its content.