Czech centre-right parties form alliance to defeat Babiš

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis, 15 October 2020. [EPA-EFE/OLIVIER HOSLET]

Three centre-right Czech parties haven signed a memorandum on forming an alliance for the next year’s general elections. The aim of Civic Democrats (ECR), Christian Democrats (EPP) and TOP 09 (EPP) is to defeat the ruling ANO party (Renew) of Prime Minister Andrej Babiš. EURACTIV Czech Republic reports.

“We want to give people hope that populism, empty words and lies will not rule this country,” said Petr Fiala, leader of Civic Democrats, the second strongest party in the Czech Parliament following the 2017 elections.

“We are ready to win the elections and form a new government,” added Fiala, the newly formed alliance’s prime ministerial candidate. The next general elections are to take place in October 2021.

According to recent opinion polls by Kantar CZ, support for the ruling ANO party is at its lowest since 2017, with around 24.5% people saying they would vote for ANO.

The new three-party alliance could reach more than 20%. Although the gap between ANO and opposition parties is still large, Babiš could face difficulties in finding coalition partners, as was already the case in October’s regional elections.

ANO won in 10 out of 13 regions but ended up sidelined after opposition parties formed coalitions in the majority of regions.

The three centre-right coalition parties have shown slight discrepancies in their position towards the EU.

Even though ECR-affiliated Civic Democrats are often considered Eurosceptic, in their official programme for the 2019 European elections they openly stated that the Czech Republic profits from the European integration and that there is “no viable alternative to EU membership”.

On the other side, there is TOP 09, the most pro-EU political party in the Czech Parliament.

Therefore, the new alliance’s position towards the EU is expected to be a compromise between reformists and pro-European centrists with a strong emphasis on traditional European values.

“The coalition is clearly in favour of NATO and the EU,” Czech Christian Democratic MEP Tomáš Zdechovský (EPP) told EURACTIV.cz.

When it comes to the position towards the EU, there is a space for criticism within the new alliance, but “it has to be constructive criticism”, he said and added:

“The cooperation with democratic partners is especially important for us.”

The three centre-right parties signed a cooperation memorandum amid the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Czech Republic is struggling with a sharp increase in new cases, with more than 15,000 people testing positive daily.

Meanwhile, trust in the government has been severely damaged by a recent scandal when tabloid Blesk published pictures of Health Minister Roman Prymula leaving a restaurant that should have been closed due to current restrictions. Babiš then decided to remove him from his position.

The new health minister, Jan Blatný, who served as a deputy director of the Faculty Hospital in Brno, will be inaugurated on Thursday (29 October).

TOP 09 leader Markéta Pekarová Adamová was very critical, saying there should be no more “amateurism” in the government.

“Our country deserves hope. Hope to leave the economic, health and social crises with its head held high. I am convinced that only a strong liberal-conservative coalition is able to achieve this goal,” she said.

Meanwhile, discussions on another anti-Babiš coalition are also taking place: Czech Pirate Party (Greens/EFA) could form an alliance with Mayors and Independents (EPP). Both parties are gaining popularity, especially since the coronavirus outbreak.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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