Billionaire Andrej Babis becomes Czech’s prime minister

October 22, 2017 2:04 pm

The leader of ANO Party, , arrives for a conference at the party’s election headquarters after the country’s parliamentary elections, in Prague, the , on October 21, 2017. (Photo by Reuters)

The centrist party of Czech billionaire Andrej Babis has scored a victory in the country’s parliamentary elections, winning almost 30 percent of the votes, amid allegations of fraud and a corruption scandal.
The ANO (YES) movement garnered 29.6 percent of the votes, or 78 of the 200 seats in the Czech Republic’s lower house of parliament on Saturday, making Babis the next prime minister of the central European country on an anti-establishment and Eurosceptic campaign platform.
The center-left Social Democrats (CSSD) party of the outgoing government received only 7.3 percent  of the votes — 15 seats — while the Christian Democrats, part of the ruling coalition, obtained a 5.8-percent support or 10 seats. The Pirate Party came in third with 10.8 percent of the votes, and the radical anti-migrant, anti-Muslim Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD), was in fourth place with 10.6 percent support.

A combination photo shows (L-R) the leaders of Czech Pirate Party, Ivan Bartos; the Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) Party, Tomio Okamura; and the ANO party, Andrej Babis casting their votes in parliamentary elections in Prague, the Czech Republic, on October 20, 2017. (By Reuters)

Babis has promised that “the Czech Republic will not adopt the euro” and has said he wanted “a single that plays fair and where nobody is a second-class member.”
The Slovak-born centrist leader has also pledged to bring his business expertise to government, aiming to resist deeper integration with the European Union (EU) and any efforts in Brussels to force the country of 10.6 million to accept refugees.
“I believe we will build a government that will be one team,” Babis told supporters and journalists during his victory speech. “We want to fulfill our program for a better life in our country.”
The 63-year-old business mogul, who is dubbed the “Czech version of Trump,” is the country’s second-richest man, with a media empire that includes two major newspapers and a popular radio station.
Babis, with promises to cut taxes, lift public investment, and fight immigration, faces alleged charges of having illegally received a two-million-euro EU subsidy for his companies. He has dismissed the charge as politically motivated.
Corruption has remained endemic in the Czech Republic — an EU member — since its 1993 split with Slovakia.
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