Friday, 17 November 2017

HN: Babiš may back Zeman's rival in exchange for MPs' support

ČTK |
1 November 2017

Prague, Oct 31 (CTK) - Andrej Babis, whose ANO movement won the recent Czech elections, should back President Milos Zeman's rival ahead of the January presidential race in exchange for democratic parties supporting the birth of an ANO minority government, David Klimes says in Hospodarske noviny (HN) on Tuesday.

Zeman, 73, who seeks re-election, seems to have launched a "grandiose political game" with the aim to triumph in the presidential election and show his prevalence over opponents.

Zeman must rejoice at a part of elites protesting against a few widely popular show business protagonists and a controversial journalist being among those he awarded on the October 28 national holiday. In the direct presidential election, these well-known entertainers and a fighter against an alleged conspiracy of the Prague elites [hostile to Zeman] will influence voters in favour of Zeman, Klimes writes.

Even more can Zeman benefit from the post-election government-forming talks. He has taken a different approach to each of the parties and leaders involved, but always with the aim to make them forget about the upcoming presidential election, Klimes writes.

To achieve this, Zeman uses all his skills of an excellent rhetor, pragmatist and talented political player, Klimes says.

Zeman has used his right to convoke the new Chamber of Deputies' constituent session for as late as 30 days following the elections, which is November 20. Only afterwards can the president appoint a PM-designate and ask him to form a government, while the deadline for presidential candidates to submit their bids is November 7, Klimes writes.

As a result, neither Babis nor other parties and leaders can start playing the presidential game before the government-forming game is finished, Klimes writes.

The October 20-21 general election produced a very fragmented Chamber of Deputies in which Babis would have to take long efforts to find stable support [for his ANO's minority government] and therefore he would not endanger Zeman, Klimes writes.

Simultaneously Zeman is trying to secure support for his presidential bid from Babis and from the Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) leader Tomio Okamura, who is the other most important player in the post-election chaos. Zeman is vehemently inviting the two to form a government to prevent them from taking a revenge on him and thwarting his re-election as president, Klimes writes.

Zeman has promised Babis to appoint him prime minister, in an effort to make him feel in control of the situation and rely on Zeman as his best friend, Klimes writes.

Zeman is trying to push through Okamura's SPD government entry regardless of the SPD's election campaign full of brownish, extreme and anti-constitutional slogans. He has praised Okamura and supported his idea of a general referendum law, Klimes writes, adding that if implemented, the law would not lead the Czech Republic to the Swiss-like direct democracy but to an absolute chaos.

By kowtowing to Okamura, Zeman wants to discourage him from running for president, since Okamura as a candidate would take a large part of anti-Islam and xenophobic voters away from Zeman, Klimes writes.

It would probably make Zeman happy if [PM] Babis gave the post of foreign minister to Okamura. However, this will not happen, Klimes writes, alluding to Babis's repeated rejection of the SPD as a government partner of ANO.

Unless being silly, Okamura will order SPD deputies to nominate him for president on November 6, which will help him keep his "blackmailing potential" in relation to both Zeman and Babis, Klimes writes.

Unlike his opponents, Zeman knows well that before the direct election, ornamental speeches in parliament are useless but it is important to attract the crowds. That is also why he chose to bestow state awards on popular entertainers and why he is playing the government-forming game so unscrupulously, Klimes says.

Zeman knows his goals, and Babis and Okamura know what they can afford. The democratic parties seem to be the only one not to comprehend the situation. Defeated in the general election, they are jointly boycotting the birth of Babis's government, though they know that they are not strong enough to govern themselves, Klimes writes.

Rather than an ANO government including or kept afloat by the SPD and the Communists (KSCM), the democratic parties would actually prefer a minority government of ANO, but they do not know what to demand in exchange for enabling its birth, Klimes says, referring to the remaining six parties in the Chamber of Deputies.

Now that Zeman has publicly vowed to appoint Babis prime minister, it would be no risk for Babis to support Zeman's rival in the presidential election. Babis is enough unscrupulous to do so. In addition, he knows that Zeman as president would at last be bullying any prime minister, whoever they are, Klimes says.

If Babis made a U-turn and clearly backed Zeman's rival in a way to influence ANO supporters among the electorate accordingly, it would be a cogent argument for the democratic parties to walk out of the Chamber of Deputies in order to let an ANO minority cabinet survive a confidence vote, Klimes writes.

After their general election defeat, the democrats should quickly decide whether they want to lose the presidential battle as well, he adds in conclusion.

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