Saturday, 16 December 2017

HN: New cabinet of Babiš will lean on red-brownish base

ČTK |
4 December 2017

Prague, Dec 1 (CTK) - ANO leader and next PM Andrej Babis has allied with the Communists (KSCM) and the anti-EU Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) in parliament as a result of which the country may soon have an ANO cabinet leaning on a "red-brownish" base, Petr Honzejk writes in Hospodarske noviny (HN) on Friday.

It is becoming more and more probable that Babis's planned minority government of ANO will win the Chamber of Deputies' confidence on the first try, thanks to the votes of the KSCM and the SPD deputies, though the three parties deny having struck a coalition deal.

However, if something looks like a coalition and votes like a coalition, it is most probably a coalition, Honzejk writes, giving several examples of the ANO-KSCM-SPD bloc voting together and determining the personnel filling of important posts in the new Chamber of Deputies.

As a clear election winner, ANO has 78 seats in the 200-seat lower house, the far highest number of all nine parties in it.

The trench between the triple bloc led by ANO and the parties that can be called pro-Western and democratic has been deepening with every new vote in parliament, Honzejk writes.

The so far strongest indicator of the triple-bloc's existence is Babis's enabling the election of SPD deputy Radek Koten as chairman of the lower house security committee, Honzejk writes and describes Koten as a promoter of conspiratory webs and a member of a Facebook group inclining to Vladimir Putin's Russia.

Installing such a man as the security committee head reflects [Babis's] strong effort to accommodate Koten's party boss, anti-EU and anti-migration SPD chairman Tomio Okamura, Honzejk writes.

Babis definitely would not have helped push through the election of Koten, which casts doubts on his own loyalty to the EU and NATO, if he had not expected it to secure the SPD's toleration of his cabinet in the parliament's vote of confidence?

Another symptom of Babis heading for final agreement with the SPD and the KSCM is Babis's choice of Lubomir Metnar for interior minister. The choice looks as if not made by Babis but by Okamura or KSCM chief Vojtech Filip. Honzejk writes.

Until recently, Metnar was a member of a pro-Russian, anti-U.S. and anti-EU grouping BOS. Now he says he abandoned the group this summer as it turned too radical and he calls the idea of Czech departure from NATO or the EU "nonsense," Honzejk writes.

He labels Koten's assurances rather untrustworthy, like his latest "childish" excuses for his visits and contributions to conspiratory webs.

Why would Babis risk an uproar by nominating Koten if he were not forming a silent majority coalition with the SPD and the KSCM, which have 22 and 15 seats in parliament, respectively? Honzejk asks.

After Babis's latest steps, democratic and pro-Western parties' support for his government is unthinkable. From now on, Babis can only try to win support for the cabinet from the KSCM and the SPD. It is not ruled out that in a few weeks, the country might have a government leaning on a red-brownish base, Honzejk says.

If so, some might reproach the democratic parties for having failed by not allying with Babis and thus pushing him into an alliance with the KSCM and the SPD, Honzejk continues.

Babis will assert this himself. He will say he did not want to side with the KSCM and the SPD, but he "was forced" to do so, unfortunately, Honzejk writes.

Similarly, Babis "did not want" to enter politics in the early 2010s, "nor did he want" to build the Stork Nest farm near Prague [due to which he faces prosecution for a suspected EU subsidy fraud], Honzejk writes with irony.

However, everyone is responsible for their own deeds. In addition, those who present themselves as pro-Western, which Babis does, should set certain limits for themselves never to cross, Honzejk writes.

In the case of the pragmatic and flexible Babis, these considerations are probably, but unnecessary moralising. In any case, Babis's ANO government kept afloat by the KSCM and the SPD seems to be in the offing, along with a four-year election term in which any limits might cease to exist, Honzejk concludes.

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