Czech President pushes Babiš toward coalition with anti-EU, anti-NATO forces

Czech Prime Mnister Andrej Babiš (L) and Czech President Miloš Zeman (R) speak at a joint news conference in Prague on 24 January 2018. [Martin Divisek/EPA/EFE]

The Czech president has advised Prime Minister Andrej Babiš to try to negotiate a new government with two fringe parties after coalition talks with the Social Democrats collapsed, Babiš said yesterday (11 April).

President Miloš Zeman recommended that Babiš, a billionaire businessman who leads the ANO party, should revive his previous attempts to form a coalition with the Communists (KSCM) and far-right, anti-European Union SPD party.

Babiš won an election last October but has yet to muster enough support to win a parliamentary confidence vote. Talks with the Social Democrats, who led a previous coalition government that included ANO, fell apart last week in a row over ministries.

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“The president recommended to me to continue negotiations with KSCM and SPD,” Babiš told reporters after meeting Zeman at the presidential retreat in Lany, 40 km (25 miles) west of Prague.

Zeman’s attitude to the European Union echoes populist-minded eastern EU leaders – especially in Hungary and Poland – at odds with Brussels over mandatory refugee quotas and various rules which they see as attempts to limit national sovereignty. He is also openly pro-Putin and  stridently anti-Muslim, having once called the 2015 migrant crisis “an organised invasion” of Europe and insisted Muslims were “impossible to integrate”.

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A number of parties have shunned Babiš mainly due to criminal charges which he is facing over an alleged fraud of EU subsidies worth €2 million a decade ago. He denies any wrongdoing.

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However, the two fringe parties are problematic as the Communists want the Czech Republic to leave the NATO defence alliance and SPD (Freedom and Direct Democracy, led by Tomio Okamura) has called for the country to quit the EU, pushing for a referendum similar to when Britons voted for Brexit in 2016.

Babiš said the ANO leadership will meet probably on Thursday to decide how to proceed.

His minority government lost a confidence vote in January and has been ruling in a caretaker capacity since then.

Financial markets have largely shrugged off the protracted political stalemate – which is not unusual in Czech politics – with the economy roaring ahead and public finances in surplus.

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