— Bloomberg Politics (@bpolitics) June 26, 2017
According to Reuters, his supporters see 62-year-old, Slovak born Andrej Babis as an efficient, plain-speaking operator who gets the job done. His critics, on the other hand, see him as representing big business and posing a threat to democracy. The Czech Republic’s second richest man, Babis is a man to love or hate. But both supporters and detractors alike agree that he is close to becoming the next prime minister.
What’s more, Babis is of the opinion that:
“The biggest added value of the European Union is the national identity of each country. A strong Europe thanks to strong states – that’s logical, no? We have to fight for what our ancestors built here. If there will be more Muslims than Belgians in Brussels, that’s their problem. I don’t want that here. They won’t be telling us who should live here.“
And while Brussels can’t imagine a future without the Euro, Babis is having none of that for the Czech Republic either:
“No euro. I don’t want the euro. We don’t want the euro here. Everybody knows it’s bankrupt. It’s about our sovereignty. I want the Czech koruna, and an independent central bank. I don’t want another issue that Brussels would be meddling with.“
Babis’ businesses, spanning agriculture, chemicals, and media companies, are estimated by Forbes to be worth more than $3 billion. Only last month, a supposed conflict-of-interests arising from this empire and his position as Finance Minister, caused Babis to be fired from this last position. Now Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has, on Tuesday, announced the resignation of his government. Less than six months before its end of term, the resignation is said to be an attempt to resolve the long-running dispute over past financial dealings of Babis. Babis, however, has called the move “a desperate step by a desperate person” and seems the one to gain most.
According to a survey by the Stem Pollster, Babis’ ANO movement – which means ‘yes’ and also stands for “Action by Dissatisfied Citizens – would win almost a third of votes, gaining from 28% in April. Sobotka’s Social Democrats would fall into third place, trailing the Communist Party, with 11%.
Voters apparently support his pledge to run the country like a business, after years of what he calls corrupt and inept management. Of course, ANO and Babis have been part of the Czech ruling coalition since 2013.
Yet that does not exclude the possibility that Babis is sincere in casting himself as an anti-graft Crusader, or appealing to Czechs disillusioned with Czech politics. As in many European countries, the Czech Republic’s use of a D’Hondt method of party-list proportional representation, other than the district system in use in the UK or USA almost guarantees that no one party will get an absolute majority. Coalitions are necessary to gain political power.
While both Reuters and Bloomberg cast doubt on Babis’ insistence on being a centrist by pointing out that he ‘echoes’ “EU naysayers,” within Eastern European politics, a critical attitude towards the EU seems actually to be pretty centrist and mainstream in Eastern Europe.
The European Commission has already started infringement procedures against the Czechs, Hungarians, and Poles for refusing to comply with EU plans migrant quota.