Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Finance Minister Babiš says government crisis is resolved

18 May 2017

Prague, May 17 (CTK) - Czech Deputy Prime Minister Andrej Babis (ANO) has said he considers the government crisis resolved now that Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (Social Democrats, CSSD) agreed on Wednesday with ANO's nomination of Ivan Pilny as replacement for him at the head of the Finance Ministry.

However, Babis rejected the reasons for his dismissal and criticised Sobotka for talking about a suspected tax evasion in connection with him.

"If I have the opportunity, I will ask the president to accept this agreement, to dismiss me, to appoint Mr Pilny as finance minister. This is the best solution. The Finance Ministry must go on," Babis said.

He said he expects he will leave the ministry by the end of May.

He said he does not suppose having any influence on the ministry, not even as an adviser.

Babis said he considers his dismissal from the government unjust and accused the CSSD of having caused the government crisis.

He said this was the CSSD's reaction to its defeat it suffered in the regional election last autumn and to its low voter preferences.

The government is comprised of the CSSD, ANO and the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL). A regular general election is scheduled for October 20-21.

ANO leads the CSSD by a double-digit margin in public opinion polls now.

Babis again rejected the reasons with which Sobotka justified his sacking.

Sobotka cited the suspicion that Babis did not pay taxes and that he influenced the media that he owned.

Babis owned the Agrofert holding, which also includes some media, until February when he transferred it to trustee funds to comply with a new conflict of interest law.

Babis said on Wednesday he will send Sobotka a letter calling on him to stop talking about tax evasion in connection with him.

In the opposite case, he is ready to defend himself at court, he said.

After Babis's departure from the ministerial post, the conflict of interest law will no longer apply to him and he could withdraw Agrofert from the trustee funds.

But he said yesterday he is not going to do this.

"However, at the moment I cease to be minister, I will definitely ponder on what to do with the media that are in the fund," Babis said.

He did not specify what he will do with the Mafra media group, including the dailies Mlada fronta Dnes (MfD) and Lidove noviny (LN).

He said he wants to take steps for "Mafra journalists not being attacked all the time."

Based on audio recordings, Babis is suspected of influencing MfD editors and even of having received a police file on an open criminal case from the journalist to whom he speaks in the recording. He dismisses the accusations.

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