Saturday, 22 September 2018

Babiš: ANO may offer government cooperation to ODS

ČTK |
12 March 2018

Prague, March 11 (CTK) - Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis (ANO) may again offer talks about the government programme and participation in the government to the right-wing opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS), he told public Czech Television (CT) on Sunday.

"I am considering it. I must consult with my colleagues, I am not the only one who makes the decisions," Babis said.

"I would be an offer on the programme and participation in the government," he said.

"We have always been ready to negotiate but we heard it through the media so many times that it is hard to trust his words," ODS deputy chairwoman Alexandra Udzenija said on Twitter, indicating that Babis's offer was merely a way to exert pressure on the other parties with which ANO is negotiating.

Social Democrat (CSSD) chairman Jan Hamacek tweeted that his party can immediately end the negotiations with ANO about a possible government if Babis wants to decide whether to launch talks with the ODS and promote right-wing politics.

ODS leader Petr Fiala said what Babis is considering is of little importance, but what he does is crucial. "In all major votes his government relies on the Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) and the Communists (KSCM) and they sink our proposals lowering taxes and curbing red tape," he tweeted.

The centrist ANO movement clearly won the general election last autumn and it occupies 78 seats in the 200-member Chamber of Deputies. As the ODS ended second in the election and has 25 seats, the two parties would hold a majority in the Chamber.

But the ODS repeatedly said they would not join a government with a prosecuted prime minister. Babis insists on being prime minister in spite of his prosecution over a suspected subsidy fraud related to the Capi hnizdo (Stork Nest) conference centre and farm.

Babis told CT that ANO keeps negotiating about possible support from the Communists and the SPD. "We are negotiating and we want to speed it up," he said.

He recalled that experts from ANO and the CSSD have been talking about 11 topics that the Social Democrats submitted.

Babis previously said a government supported by the CSSD would be the best option. However, the CSSD has only 15 seats in the Chamber, which means that another party would still need to back or at least tolerate the government, probably the KSCM, also with 15 seats.

Hamacek said Babis's unpredictability is the reason why the CSSD wants guarantees on what the government would promote and how.

CSSD first deputy chairman Jiri Zimola told CT that the CSSD and ANO could start talking about personnel issues next week. ANO deputy chairman Jaroslav Faltynek said it is time to open this discussion.

Zimola indicated that the CSSD would like to head the Interior Ministry to rule out Babis's influence on the investigation of his case. Faltynek said he expects the CSSD to ask for four or five ministers in the government.

After the elections held last October, Babis failed to find parties that would support ANO's minority cabinet. Nearly all parties said it is unacceptable for them to take part in a cabinet including a prosecuted minister. Babis's first government lost the confidence vote in the Chamber in January and it will rule the country until his second government is appointed.

President Milos Zeman did not set any deadline for the formation of the possible future cabinet. However, he told TV Barrandov on Thursday the slow progress in the government-forming talks makes him a little bit nervous.

Babis said on Sunday he would certainly like to reach agreement on the new cabinet in June, which is the month Zeman also mentioned.

He said he would ask the Chamber for its confidence again only when he wins sufficient support from it.

Babis said he does not plan to merge the agriculture and environment ministries, even though ANO had the merger in its programme.

He said ANO wants to be in charge of the health and labour ministries in the next government as well.

When asked about the alleged Russian hacker whom the Czech Republic may extradite to either the USA or Russia, he said it is Justice Minister Robert Pelikan (ANO) who decides on this matter.

Pelikan recently said Zeman repeatedly resolutely intervened on behalf of Nikulin's extradition to Moscow. Pelikan indirectly said he would extradite Nikulin to the USA. On Friday, daily Lidove noviny (LN) speculated that Babis plans to replace Pelikan with a more flexible official, Petr Mlsna, who would do what he was told, which now first of all meant extradite Nikulin to Russia.

"The president did not discuss such issues with me and he never told me a name for the government," Babis said, dismissing the idea that Zeman would demand that certain people be ministers of the next government.

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