Saturday, 26 May 2018

Týden: PM scores own goal by promoting anti-Babiš resolution

21 March 2017

Prague, March 20 (CTK) - Czech PM Bohuslav Sobotka (Social Democrats, CSSD) has scored an own goal by backing lawmakers' decision that consequences must be drawn against Finance Minister Andrej Babis (ANO) unless he explains his dubious business deals by end-April, Petr Kolar writes in weekly Tyden out on Monday.

Last Wednesday, the Chamber of Deputies launched a crusade against Babis, whose ANO movement is a favourite of the October general election, Kolar writes.

An informal coalition of the opposition TOP 09, the Civic Democrats (ODS) and the Communists (KSCM), and a large part of the CSSD and the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL), the two parties that are ANO's partners in Sobotka's centre-left government, decided to discuss what they called "tax frauds of the finance minister" at the lower house session on Wednesday.

They passed a resolution binding Babis, who owned the giant Agrofert chemical, food and media holding until recently, to explain his controversial business deals by the end of April, otherwise Sobotka should draw consequences in relation to him.

However, the crusade may backfire on its initiators, and it is not Babis but Sobotka who should fear the end-April deadline, Kolar writes.

Babis's explanations of his incomes and financial transactions, strongly remind of a series of untrustworthy excuses, but most people credulously trust him. As a result, Sobotka may easily become trapped, Kolar writes.

In the wake of the lawmakers' resolution, Sobotka said it cannot be played down or challenged.

However, Babis can hardly submit quite different explanations or arguments than those he has presented already. By doing so, he would prove that he did not speak the truth before, Kolar writes.

It can be therefore expected that at the end of April, Sobotka's fellow CSSD members will start pushing for him to sack Babis as deputy PM and finance minister. If so, Sobotka would be definitively trapped, Kolar writes.

If Sobotka refrained from sacking Babis, he would be criticised as a weakling who got scared of Babis.

If Sobotka asked Babis, the ANO movement chairman, to sack Babis as ANO's finance minister, Babis would surely do so with pleasure. Instead of working at the Finance Ministry, he would start touring the country to campaign for ANO's election victory, Kolar writes.

Within the campaign, Babis will be telling voters that long-discredited mainstream parties' politicians led by Sobotka, [TOP 09 chairman Miroslav] Kalousek and the ODS have allied against him to oust him from politics because he thwarted their suspicious deals. He will say he needs as much support from voters as possible so that he can finally do away with the above "matrix," Kolar writes.

Babis will be exactly in a position he wanted to reach because it works well for his benefit, Kolar writes.

After [ANO's victory in] the October election, Babis may use the same rhetoric to explain why he would prefer forming a government of ANO together with the Communists and even with MP Tomio's Okamura's [minor populist Freedom and Direct Democracy movement], Kolar writes.

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