Czech billionaire PM forms coalition with Social Democrats

Czech PM Andrej Babis secured a coalition deal with the Social Democrats
AFP

Prague (AFP) – Czech billionaire Prime Minister Andrej Babis on Friday clinched a minority coalition deal with the leftwing Social Democrats (CSSD), but will still have to rely on the informal backing of the communist party to win a confidence vote in parliament.

Social Democrat (CSSD) leader Jan Hamacek confirmed the deal after 58.5 percent of the party’s members endorsed the coalition with Babis’s populist ANO (Yes) party in a lengthy operation that ended Friday.

The CSSD will play “the role of a strong leftwing party” in the coalition, Hamacek told reporters in Prague. 

ANO won 78 seats in the 200-member parliament campaigning on an anti-corruption ticket in the October 2017 election, but Babis struggled to form a coalition. 

Potential partners shunned him over criminal charges he faced for alleged EU subsidy fraud, something he flatly denied. 

His first attempt at forming a cabinet ended in January when his minority government of ANO members and unaffiliated experts failed to garner enough support in parliament.

On June 6, Czech president Milos Zeman tapped Babis as prime minister for a second time in six months, betting that he will be able to swing a parliamentary majority.

“On Sunday I will present President Zeman with a draft of the composition of my government, which will then seek the confidence of parliament. This vote could take place on July 11,” Babis told reporters on Friday.

Teaming up with the 15-seat CSSD will give Babis the backing of  just 93 seats in the 200-seat parliament. 

To secure a parliamentary majority, Babis — a former communist — intends to rely on backing from the 15-seat KSCM Communist Party. 

The KSCM has signalled it will back him in a confidence vote this time around in exchange for positions in large state-owned enterprises. 

This could give the Communists a role in government, albeit an informal one, for the first time since the collapse of the communist regime in the Velvet Revolution in former Czechoslovakia in 1989.

The prospect of the Communists playing any role in government sent thousands of protesters onto the streets of the EU and NATO member of 10.6 million people last week.

Police have charged Babis — a food, chemicals and media tycoon and the second wealthiest Czech — with alleged EU subsidy fraud to the tune of two million euros ($2.4 million).

The Slovak-born entrepreneur has also been dogged by allegations he served as a Communist secret police agent before 1989. Babis has denied any wrongdoing.

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