Czech PM’s party snubs extremists for cabinet talks

Czech Prime minister Andrej Babis, pictured on April 10, 2018, will go back to negotiations with the leftwing Social Democrats

Prague (Czech Republic) (AFP) – The ANO movement of billionaire Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said Thursday it would snub the far-right SPD party for talks on support to its government in a bid to end a drawn-out political crisis.

Instead, ANO, which has 78 seats in the 200-member parliament following a landslide win in last October’s general election, will go back to negotiations with the leftwing Social Democrats (CSSD).

“The ANO (leaders) entrust the negotiating team to resume talks with the CSSD,” Babis tweeted.

“If ANO wants to resume talks with the CSSD, we will be happy to hear their ideas. The CSSD is always open to serious talks in favour of this country and its people,” tweeted for his part CSSD chairman Jan Hamacek.

Talks between ANO and the CSSD failed last week as the parties — which formed the previous Czech cabinet together with the small centrist Christian Democrats — were unable to strike a deal on ministerial posts.

With the talks stalled, President Milos Zeman — a pro-Russian, pro-Chinese, anti-Muslim veteran leftwinger — advised Babis to turn to the far-right SPD party and the Communists for backing.

But analysts warned cooperation with the SPD, an openly anti-EU, anti-Muslim party led by Tokyo-born entrepreneur Tomio Okamura, might hurt Babis’s business interests in western Europe, and quite a few ANO members were against it too.

“The SPD is not a good option, it will hurt ANO, it will hurt the whole country,” ANO lawmaker Rostislav Vyzula told reporters before Thursday’s talks.

Snubbed by potential partners over his murky past, Babis, the second-wealthiest Czech, formed a minority government last autumn, but his team of ANO members and unaffiliated experts failed to win a confidence vote in January and resigned.

It continues to carry out work until a new cabinet is named.

A coalition government of ANO and the CSSD would likely need the parliamentary support of the Communists as the two parties together muster a mere 93 parliamentary seats and the Communists have said they are willing to support such a cabinet.

Politicians have turned their backs on Babis, a food, chemicals and media tycoon who is facing criminal charges for alleged EU subsidy fraud. He is also dogged by allegations that he served as a Communist secret police agent before the Iron Curtain fell in 1989.

Zeman, who was elected to a second five-year term in January, has two attempts to name a prime minister under the constitution, with the third going to the parliament speaker who is an ANO member.