Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Pehe: ANO-ČSSD failed talks mean Okamura is back in the game

9 April 2018

Prague, April 7 (CTK) - Tomio Okamura, leader of the right-wing populist Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD), will return to the game if the failure of the ANO movement and the Social Democrats (CSSD) to form a Czech coalition government is definitive, Jiri Pehe writes in daily Pravo on Saturday.

However, support from Okamura may have several unpleasant consequences for the formation of the second government of ANO leader Andrej Babis, he says.

Babis is working hard to look like a pro-Western politician, Pehe says, arguing with the recent extraditing of Russian hacker Yevgenyi Nikulin to the USA and the expelling of three Russian diplomats within the solidarity reaction to the poisoning of former Russian agent Skripal in Britain.

These steps are important for Babis not only because they soften the voices of the critics who say he wants to undermine Czech parliamentary democracy, but also because Babis wishes to be recognised internationally. Moreover, he is doing business in western Europe, Pehe writes.

He says cooperation with the Okamura's anti-immigrant, anti-EU movement may frustrate his effort in this respect. The Western partners would undoubtedly come to terms with the fact that Babis relied on the Communist Party (KSCM) - especially if the KSCM only backed a coalition government of ANO and the CSSD.

But a government relying on support from the KSCM and the SPD is something very different, Pehe writes.

Such an arrangement would be very risky also for the Communists, he says.

If the Communists supported the ANO/CSSD coalition, this would make them look like a "standard" party. On the contrary, the Communist support for ANO's minority cabinet also backed by the SPD would only restart debates about the extremist character of the KSCM, which is something the Communists want to avoid, Pehe writes.

When Babis let the negotiations about an alliance with the CSSD fail, he was certainly aware of the risks related to the return of Okamura into the talks about the government. It is thus very probable that if the ANO talks with the CSSD are not restarted, the country will be moving towards an early election, Pehe says.

One cannot rule out the possibility that Babis planned this outcome from the very beginning. He seemingly did his utmost to form a government with democratic parties and he claims that the government was not formed because these parties had unrealistic demands. It may appeal to the Czech voters that Babis would prefer another election test rather than rely on the extremist SPD, Pehe writes.

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