Czech PM Babis wins vote of con­fi­dence for new cabi­net

Oman Daily Observer - - WORLD -

PRAGUE: The Czech par­lia­ment gave its back­ing early on Thurs­day to a new, cen­tre-left mi­nor­ity cabi­net led by bil­lion­aire An­drej Babis, end­ing his nearly nine-month ef­fort to se­cure a par­lia­men­tary ma­jor­ity.

The new govern­ment, which pairs Babis’s ANO party with the So­cial Democrats, re­lied on the sup­port on the Com­mu­nist Party, giv­ing it a po­lit­i­cal say for the first time since the fall of com­mu­nism in the for­mer Cze­choslo­vakia in 1989.

Most par­ties have re­jected work­ing with Babis, whose ANO won an elec­tion last Oc­to­ber, be­cause he faces fraud charges re­lated to a 2 mil­lion euro ($2.34 mil­lion) Euro­pean Union sub­sidy a decade ago. He has de­nied any wrong­do­ing.

Un­der a deal that has been crit­i­cised by op­po­si­tion par­ties, ANO and the cen­tre-left So­cial Democrats to­gether hold 93 seats in the 200-seat lower house of par­lia­ment, with the pro-moscow, anti-nato Com­mu­nists agree­ing to lend an­other 15 votes.

Af­ter 16 hours of de­bate, the govern­ment won 105 votes among the 196 present in the bal­lot, which is manda­tory for any new cabi­net, of­fi­cial re­sults showed.

“I want to... stress that this is a very se­ri­ous mo­ment, the re­turn of the Com­mu­nist Party to power and in­flu­ence in the Czech Repub­lic,” Petr Fiala, leader of the main op­po­si­tion party, cen­tre-right Civic Democrats, said in par­lia­ment.

Speak­ing be­fore the de­bate, Babis said his govern­ment would fo­cus on in­vest­ment and main­tain­ing sound pub­lic fi­nances, which have been in sur­plus in re­cent years amid a pe­riod of strong growth as well as a labour mar­ket with the EU’S low­est un­em­ploy­ment.

He also aimed to give the coun­try a stronger voice in the EU and con­tinue to push the bloc to strengthen se­cu­rity to get im­mi­gra­tion un­der con­trol.

“We will con­tinue to be ac­tive, and make ef­fec­tive al­liances” in this, Babis said.

Babis’ ap­peal stems from his im­age as some­one who can dis­lodge the coun­try’s main­stream par­ties, seen by many vot­ers as rid­dled with cor­rup­tion. His rise to the top of Czech pol­i­tics has mir­rored the progress made by pop­ulist move­ments across a num­ber of EU coun­tries.

Op­po­nents, how­ever, ac­cuse him of erod­ing democ­racy due to the vast em­pire he built in chem­i­cals, farm­ing and the me­dia. He has trans­ferred con­trol of the group to a trust fund to com­ply with con­flict of in­ter­est laws.

Hun­dreds of pro­test­ers chanted slo­gans against Babis out­side par­lia­ment for hours as the House de­bated the con­fi­dence mo­tion. At one point, Babis walked out to meet the crowd, but re­turned in­side soon af­ter pro­test­ers threw at least one bot­tle of wa­ter at him, news agency CTK re­ported.

Babis has re­peat­edly said he would keep the Czech Repub­lic on a prow­est­ern course and avoid the kind of spar­ring over checks and bal­ances that has landed neigh­bour­ing Poland and Hun­gary in con­flict with Brus­sels.

But he backs Cen­tral Euro­pean peers in re­ject­ing to ac­cept asy­lum seek­ers flee­ing war in the Mid­dle East and North­ern Africa. His hard line re­flects pub­lic mood in a coun­try where six in 10 refuse to ac­cept any war refugees, ac­cord­ing to sur­veys, and nearly all those re­main­ing say they would only pro­vide tem­po­rary asy­lum.

The Com­mu­nist Party lead­er­ship agreed to back the new ad­min­is­tra­tion even though Babis, who has been care­taker prime min­is­ter since a first at­tempt to win con­fi­dence for a oneparty cabi­net failed in Jan­uary, re­fused some of their de­mands.

One was for cut­backs in the Czech con­tri­bu­tion to Nato mil­i­tary mis­sions abroad. An­other sought rep­re­sen­ta­tion on the su­per­vi­sory board of the big­gest state-con­trolled com­pany, elec­tric­ity pro­ducer CEZ.

We will con­tinue to be ac­tive, and make ef­fec­tive al­liances in this AN­DREJ BABIS Czech PM


Czech Prime Min­is­ter An­drej Babis walks past the mem­bers of Czech Com­mu­nists party (KSCM) to de­liver his speech in the Czech Par­lia­ment in Prague on Wed­nes­day.

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