Czech Republic goes to the ballot box: tax reports endanger Babis’ re-election

The re-election of the Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis is almost certain for a long time. But on the day of the election, the lead is no longer so clear. Even if his populist ANO party wins, forming a coalition will not be easy.

In the parliamentary elections in the Czech Republic, Prime Minister Andrej Babis is trying to get a second term. At the hour, the polling stations in the EU country open for the voting, which runs until Saturday lunchtime. According to surveys, it could be tight for Babis, who has come under criticism for his corona and debt policy and most recently in connection with personal business in tax havens had been called. The billionaire rejects any wrongdoing. His populist party ANO is ahead of the polls. But the lead over two opposition groups who want to push Babis out of office together has shrunk to a few percentage points in the past few weeks.

Babis campaigned with a promise to raise wages, salaries and pensions in the public sector. The 67-year-old should have scored points with his voter base. Babis had recently continued to adhere to the generous spending policy from the Corona period, although the situation in the country has now eased. During the pandemic, Babis had turned the opposition against him, who accused him of chaotic crisis management. With more than 30,000 corona deaths, the Czech Republic has one of the highest death rates in Europe.

According to the constitution, the new prime minister is appointed by the state president. According to his office, the incumbent, allied with Babis, will not vote publicly this time, contrary to custom. Health problems that were not specified in more detail were given as the reason. The 77-year-old will vote in the presidential palace.

No coalition with Babis

Even if Babis should ultimately be commissioned to form a new government, the search for coalition partners will be difficult. The opposition alliance made up of the pirate and mayor parties as well as a center-right party has refused any cooperation with Babis. Allianz accuses the founder of the corporate empire Agrofert of unacceptable conflicts of interest. Babis points out that he transferred all legal responsibility for Agrofert to a foundation before taking office in 2017. But the European Commission has stopped funding for Agrofert.

A victory for the opposition could improve the relationship between the Czech Republic and the EU, because at least the dispute over conflicts of interest would be over. A defeat for Babis, who campaigned against immigration and the EU, would also remove the country politically from Hungary and Poland, who cross with Brussels on legal issues relating to the understanding of democracy. Experts see Babis in the same line: “Babis is a small fish compared to what is happening in Poland and Hungary,” said Tomas Weiss, a European scientist at Charles University in Prague. The EU Commission cannot take action against Hungary and Poland and ignore what is happening in the Czech Republic.