Friday, 22 September 2017

HN: Position of Babiš is shaky before general election

ČTK |
1 September 2017

Prague, Aug 31 (CTK) - The position of ANO leader Andrej Babis is more fragile than ever before due to his scandals, but they need not bring about his political fall because his rivals are weak and offer nothing special to Czech voters, Petr Honzejk writes in daily Hospodarske noviny (HN) on Thursday.

Babis is actually right when he claims that all the suspicions he is facing are part of the campaign before the October general election: all that happens during the campaign, may influence the election result. However, this does not necessarily mean that somebody wants to harm Babis, Honzejk writes.

He says it first of all means that Babis is forced to deal with the impact of his own statements and actions.

One can challenge the fact that the police plan to prosecute Babis shortly before the elections and the way in which his controversial statements are released in form of audio recordings posted on an anonymous Twitter account, but the main thing is the contents, which is becoming more and more serious, Honzejk writes.

He says the crucial question now is whether the increasing doubts about the practices of Babis will damage his so far unshakeable position in the ANO movement and of himself as the potential next prime minister.

Until now, it seemed that nothing can harm Babis. Neither his lies about the ownership of the Stork Nest luxurious farm (from "I don’t know who is the owner" to "it belonged to my family"), nor his tax tricks with bonds (especially as he was finance minister who pledged to punish all who avoid paying taxes), nor the suspicion that he used the media he owns against his political rivals (though he swore not to do this) affected his popularity, Honzejk writes.

But this may change by the elections. Too many doubts are related to Babis for his usual reaction of blaming others for conspiring against him to continue being successful. The voters may conclude that this is too much and that Babis cannot be trusted anymore, Honzejk writes.

He says the politicians of the ANO movement seem nervous and it is hard to find anybody among them who would be willing to talk to media. Babis looks nervous as well and his arguments are weaker and weaker, he added.

Citing a Median opinion poll, Honzejk says the hard core of ANO voters decreased by 4 percentage points.

But even if the trust in ANO started corroding, it may not have a considerable influence on the election result, he says.

If voters feel unhappy about Babis, their question will be whom they are going to support instead. If they do not find anybody attractive, which is not unlikely, they will cast their votes for Babis anyway, Honzejk writes.

Sociological analyses show that people seem to believe that Babis will make the state more friendly and improve its functioning. Majority voters may believe Babis is abusing power even more than the politicians who ruled the country before him, but they may decide that they actually do not mind it. Never mind that Babis misused a subsidy or brutally liquidated a business or political rival - it is more important for them that he will repair roads and make state institutions more efficient and friendly, Honzejk writes.

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