Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Press: Czechs rewrite political map, do not mind Babiš's scandals

ČTK |
23 October 2017

Prague, Oct 22 (CTK) - Czechs have completely rewritten the country's political map in the October 20-21 general election, which saw an increased number of voters who do not care about ideologies but find a strong leader important, domestic news sites agree in their commentaries published on Sunday.

According to them, the voters showed that they do not mind the controversial cases involving Andrej Babis, head of the victorious ANO movement.

With a strong mandate of 78 seats in the 200-seat Chamber of Deputies, ANO will probably have no problem forming a government, the servers write.

They say further election winners are the newcomer Pirates and Tomio Okamura's Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD), while the traditional left, i.e. the Social Democrats (CSSD) and the Communists (KSCM), were a failure.

The E15 web's economic commentary says Europe's single currency is the main loser.

Aktualne.cz's chief commentator Jan Lipold writes that though ANO has been part of the cabinet in the past four years, it has succeeded in making the impression of being the only party that can secure a change now.

iHNED.cz's commentator Petr Honzejk writes that Babis managed two "juggler's tricks" that will probably enter the history of political marketing.

"He skilfully appropriated the successes of the government of which ANO was part, but at the same time, he succeeded in presenting himself as someone who protests against the political establishment," Honzejk writes, calling this "a paradox of the decade."

According to Lipold, the elections were to a large extent a referendum on Babis. He won, in spite of facing criminal accusations in the case of his Stork Nest company.

Honzejk, too, writes that Babis's voters are indifferent to his prosecution and to his suspected former cooperation with the communist secret police StB.

In late summer, Babis and his close aide Jaroslav Faltynek were released for prosecution by the outgoing Chamber of Deputies. For the prosecution to continue, the two, who have been re-elected lawmakers, need to be released to police by the new Chamber again.

The new Chamber is unlikely to do so now that there is no need to impress voters any longer, according to Echo24's commentator Daniel Kaiser.

According to commentators, ANO's victory far ahead of rivals practically means a free hand for it in the post-election talks.

"Regardless of the strong words that can be heard from other parties, Babis will be able to choose with whom to form a coalition. If his coalition partner is 'disobedient', Babis is likely to be able to replace him easily," Honzejk writes.

At least one or two parties that refuse cooperation with Babis can be expected to breach their vow, he writes.

The Pirates' higher than 10-percent gain is a surprise, the webs write.

Honzejk says the Pirates benefited from young voters' higher support and it took some liberal voters away from the Greens and TOP 09.

In the case of the SPD of Tomio Okamura, which also crossed 10 percent, Honzejk and Lipold agree that the other parties permanently scared people with migration and Brussels until the Czechs switched to "a tough guy" who wants to ban Islam, leave the EU and surround the country with a fence.

"The record success of the extreme populist [SPD] - the previous such record gain was eight percent for Miroslav Sladek's Republicans in 1996 - is the worst piece of news from the elections," Lipold writes.

The commentators say the KSCM failed to comprehend the current trend and fell to the worst election result in its history. Personnel changes can be expected in the KSCM, like in the CSSD and TOP 09, Lipold writes.

Honzejk describes the CSSD's result as a debacle. "If the CSSD fails to do something about it, its orange emblem colour might completely disappear from the country's political spectrum. Of course, a party can pull together," Honzejk writes, giving the election runner-up Civic Democrats (ODS) as an example.

The Lidovky.cz server speculates about the future new government coalition. ANO can form a coalition with the ODS, and also several variants of three-party coalitions, such as with the KDU-CSL and the CSSD, its partners in the outgoing government, or with the Pirates and TOP 09.

For this to happen, however, the respective parties' leaders would have to backpedal on their refusal to cooperate with Babis. This, however, looks only minimally probable now, in view of the leaders' media statements, Lidovky.cz writes.

On Aktualne.cz, Martin Fendrych writes that if Babis and Okamura ally with each other, Czech voters will realise that freedom is never a matter-of-course for them to turn the blind eye to.

"Freedom received a heavy blow in this year's elections," Fendrych writes.

In E15.cz, Lukas Kovanda says with the election result, the Czech adoption of the euro cannot be expected before 2025, unless Babis, who has branded the euro a collapsing enterprise, changed his mind.

The parties promoting the euro, mainly the CSSD and TOP 09, have failed in the elections.

"Otherwise, the election result will not influence the country's economic development in the next two years, since politicians' economic measures usually do not become effective overnight. Nevertheless, pressure can be expected for a more effective drawing of EU money..., which would help curb the unfavourable impact of an economic slowdown the Czech Republic is likely to face in the next four years," Kovanda writes.

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