Billionaire Babis Wins Czech Election
On Saturday October 21, populist billionaire, Andrej Babis won the Czech parliamentary election, with a significant margin. Voter turnout was almost 61 percent, with 29.7 percent of votes given to Babis’ political party, ANO. The victory of ANO marks the defeat of the Czech Republic’s longstanding conventional political parties. The centre-right Civic Democrats received 11.3 percent of the votes and the Czech Pirate Party came in third with 10.8 percent of the votes.
ANO, the anti-establishment party, was founded by Babis in 2012 and is based on the populist movement “Action of Dissatisfied Citizens” – created in response to the emergence of a series of corruption scandals in the centre-right government. ANO won 78 out of the 200 seats in the lower house and will need other coalition partners to have a majority, which is necessary to form a government.
Some parties have already rejected joining an ANO-led coalition because its leader, Babis, has been charged with subsidy fraud. In addition, others fear that Babis’ policies will undermine democratic norms because of his cronyism toward corporate interests and political reputation as a populist leader.
Babis has been compared to President Trump for his nationalistic ideals, strong opposition to immigration, and for promising to use his business skills to improve the Czech political establishment and economy. During his campaign, Babis opposed deeper EU integration, including adoption of the Euro and acceptance of refugee quotas. He maintains a protectionist narrative, to curb Brussels’s overarching influence, but simultaneously promises to uphold an active role in the European Union.
There have been concerns that Babis might join Hungary and Poland on a collision course with the EU. But in response, Babis reassured Brussels, “It is not true that we are any threat. We are pro-European”.
The Czech parliament’s, new leading party, will alter both domestic and foreign policies. Furthermore, Babis assured the Czech people that he is ready to fight for their interests in Brussels.