Thousands of Czechs rallied on Monday (9 April) to call for the resignation of Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, battling police charges and without parliamentary backing for his government.
Nearly six months after an election that Babiš’s ANO party won by a large margin, the billionaire businessman is still seeking partners to govern and heads a caretaker minority cabinet after losing a confidence vote in January.
Coalition talks with the Social Democrats broke down last week in a spat over the allocation of ministries and Babiš has not said what he will do next before meeting President Miloš Zeman on Tuesday.
Most other parties have shunned Babiš due to an alleged fraud of European Union subsidies worth €2 million a decade ago. He denies wrongdoing.
Several thousand protested on Prague’s Wenceslas Square on Monday, according to news agency CTK’s estimates, while more than 2,000 rallied in Brno, the country’s second largest city. Police did not provide official estimates. Protests took place in other cities and towns.
Thousands protest across Czech Republic against PM Andrej Babis. Reasons: fraud charges, listed as a former agent of the communist-era secret police StB, controversial steps of his minority government (rejected in a no-confidence vote in January). Photo @CT24zive @Seznam_Zpravy pic.twitter.com/CYdSDPgwgI
— Bohumil Vostal (@BohumilVostal) April 9, 2018
Protest organisers say someone facing criminal charges should not lead the government.
Besides the subsidy case, Slovak-born Babiš has also fought to be cleared of a charge of cooperating with the communist-era secret police, a demand rejected by a court in Slovakia earlier this year.
Thousands protested in March against a Communist lawmaker being named head of a police oversight commission despite his past in a communist-era special unit. ANO has held talks with the Communist Party over support for a new government, and the protesters took aim at Babiš.
— Prague Biz Journal (@prague_business) April 9, 2018
On Monday, Babiš told newspaper Lidové Noviny he would agree to another candidate from his ANO party leading a new government if proposed by President Miloš Zeman, but that he did not expect such a move now.
His anti-establishment party, pledging to fight political graft and bring a business touch to government, won nearly three times as many votes as its nearest rival in last October’s election but lacks a majority in parliament.
Besides the Social Democrats, ANO could lean on support from the Communists and the far-right, anti-EU SPD party. But many ANO party members oppose such cooperation, especially with the SPD.
Markets have largely shrugged off the political stalemate, with the economy growing and public finances in surplus.
The EPP bashing on Orban is legit. But all centrist European families apply double standards. Social democrats tolerate the corrupt and questionable Maltese and Romanian governments. The Liberals don't see too many Problems with Babis.
— diego velazquez (@diego_bxl) April 9, 2018