Sunday, 19 November 2017

Zeit: Those spreading fear of open Europe may win Czech elections

ČTK |
20 October 2017

Berlin/Paris/Bratislava, Oct 19 (CTK correspondent) - The people spreading fear of open Europe may win the general election in the Czech Republic to be held on Friday and Saturday, the German magazine's server Zeit writes, alluding to the government ANO movement of Andrej Babis, which is a clear election favourite.

"Will the Czech Republic, which has so far been seen as a bridge between the East and the West, rank among the Central European countries ruled by populists?" Zeit asks, hinting at Poland and Hungary.

It also says Babis lacks the religious and nationalist wrath that Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of the government Law and Justice party in Poland, and Hungarian PM Viktor Orban express.

"ANO's political profile is as clear as the offer of the Amazon [Internet server]," Zeit writes.

It points out that billionaire businessman Babis wants to rule the country like a firm.

"Liberal journalists compare Babis to former [Italian PM Silvio] Berlusconi and [U.S. President Donald] Trump and they warn that he is actually dreaming of the removal of parliamentarism. Nonsense, his supporters argue," Zeit writes.

It also reminds of the affairs Babis has been facing in the past few months.

Food and media mogul Babis, 63, had to leave the posts of deputy PM and finance minister in the coalition government of the Social Democrats (CSSD), his ANO and Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) due to his dubious business transactions in May.

Moreover, Babis is prosecuted on suspicion of an EU subsidy fraud. Most recently, the Slovak Constitutional Court annulled the verdict of lower-level courts ruling that Babis was wrongly registered as an agent of the communist secret police StB and returned the case to the very beginning.

Zeit expresses the view that Babis bases his profile to a high extent on the hatred of elites and internationalism. "Babis naturally rejects the EU refugee quotas as well as the adoption of the euro," Zeit writes.

At the end of the commentary, Zeit quotes Czech MEP and European Parliament Vice-President Pavel Telicka, who recently ended cooperation with Babis.

Telicka said he had joined ANO with trust that it would be a pro-European reform party, but "now he is hearing only empty slogans" from it.

Babis's government would pose a threat of the Czech Republic marginalising itself, he added.

"ANO dug out a hole itself, and I only believe the country will not fall into it," the German magazine cites Telicka as saying.

Babis may be a thorn in the flesh of the EU, the French server atlantico.fr writes.

Analyst Florent Parmentier says the values of the 1990s, when the Czech politics was formed by the efforts to be integrated into the EU and NATO have weakened.

The democratic transformation in the country, which appeared at the time, cannot be considered irreversible, Parmentier said.

Analyst Cyrille Bret stresses that Babis is not leaving his "pro-European conviction" of a successful businessman who knows very well that the health of the Czech economy depends on its membership of the united market, German and Austrian investments, and tourists from the EU, but also Russian deliveries of gas and petrol.

The paper Les Echos writes that Babis's popularity is rather paradoxical. He presents himself as a candidate challenging the system, while he held the post of finance minister for three years.

"There is a certain fatigue from traditional parties and even a fatigue from politics," Les Echos quotes French political scientist Christian Duquesne as saying.

Duquesne is of the view that Babis will not become a new Viktor Orban or Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the strong men in Hungary and Poland, accused of authoritarian tendencies.

The concentration of power in Babis's hands along with the anti-system character of ANO, owned by him, may affect the very existence of Czech democracy, Slovak paper Sme writes.

"Pushing Babis's pernicious influence from power is a sound priority," it adds.

"However, the mainstream parties should still bear in mind that the scenarios with Babis are ugly, but only the combination of ANO-Communists-Okamura would be fateful for the Czech Republic," it adds.

The paper Pravda writes that the victory of ANO is a foregone conclusion, but there is still the question of whether Babis will also rule after the election.

"The question is not whether the Czech Republic will have a prosecuted prime minister, but whom this man will push to the top along with him. Polls have shown that this question may remain unanswered for quite a long time after the election," it adds.

Dennik N writes that preservation of the democratic system is at stake in the election in the Czech Republic.

Unlike Slovakia, the Czech Republic seemed to be a "mainstream country" for a long time, it adds.

"This election is the first in which the preservation of the democratic system is at stake in the Czech Republic, too," Dennik N writes.

It writes that Babis will not change, he will abuse his power and the state and he will be introducing authoritarian methods of the control of his own property in society.

If a broad coalition without Babis is formed, in the presence of a strong and aggressive opposition, it will be very difficult to rule, it adds.

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