Thursday, 21 June 2018

MfD: Popular persons leave Babiš, ANO needs new ones

ČTK |
21 May 2018

Prague, May 18 (CTK) - The latest wave of popular personalities who joined the ANO movement at its birth is leaving Andrej Babis and he should find a replacement for them, Miroslav Korecky wrote in daily Mlada fronta Dnes (MfD) on Friday.

The original group of the popular, mostly liberal, personalities who were among the founders of Babis's movement and who led ANO in its first parliamentary election in 2013 is long gone, Korecky says, mentioning university professor and former rector Jiri Zlatuska, former finance minister Ivan Pilny, former state official and current European Commissioner Vera Jourova, former diplomat and current European Parliament Vice President Pavel Telicka and journalist Martin Komarek.

Out of the present wave of personalities who are leaving Babis's government or politics in general, only outgoing Foreign Minister Martin Stropnicky was in the original team of ANO, Korecky writes.

He says the team that is now leaving consists of members who joined ANO to fill the holes in the original lineup.

Outgoing Justice Minister Robert Pelikan replaced Helena Valkova in the cabinet and outgoing Transport Minister Dan Tok replaced Antonin Prachar in the post. Defence Minister Karla Slechtova, who is a replacement for Jourova, is likely to leave the cabinet, too, Korecky writes.

He says outgoing Prague Mayor Adriana Krnacova and others who were linked to ANO more loosely, like lawyer Hana Marvanova and Transparency International Czech branch head David Ondracka, can be added to the list of those who left Babis.

The reasons for the departures are not always the same, but these people usually felt Babis did not support them enough, they disagreed with ANO's political steps or its change in ideological focus from centre-right to nationalist centre-left, they disliked Babis's political style or his power pact with President Milos Zeman. And some of them simply failed to succeed in the political competition in ANO.

It is well-known that Babis is not very good in selecting the right people for top posts. This is why he passed the responsibility for personnel affairs to Deputy PM Richard Brabec and ANO lower house group's head Jaroslav Faltynek. Brabec deals with the cabinet, Faltynek with the parliament, Korecky writes.

It is noteworthy that both Brabec and Faltynek were managers in the huge Agrofert holding that Babis owned and had to transfer to trust funds to comply with a new law on conflict of interest in 2017.

Faltynek is actually the personnel director of the whole movement. He seems to have the necessary qualities for this role, but Babis has overburdened him, making him ANO first deputy chairman, ANO lower house group's head, lower house agricultural committee chairman and one of the negotiators about the emerging government of ANO and the Social Democrats (CSSD), Korecky says.

Babis should not underestimate the present wave of departures because popular politicians are leaving. Babis himself can appeal to people in the more leftist countryside and small towns, while the popular personalities appealed to the more liberal voters from the cities.

It will be hard for Babis to find new faces because his reputation in the liberal circles is rather poor, Korecky says.

Among the 78 ANO lawmakers in the 200-seat lower house one can hardly find ten popular personalities. Transferring further Agrofert managers to politics would not solve the issue, Korecky writes.

With ANO's expansion in the Czech regions, new personalities like Brno Mayor Petr Vokral and Karlovy Vary Region Governor Jana Vildumetzova are emerging, but they have not raised above the regional level, Korecky says.

However, Babis needs more to keep being the winner - he needs a winning team around him. He is still the main icon of ANO, but it cannot work like this for a long time.

When Babis was looking for ministers of his minority cabinet, he had to seek them outside his movement, yet he did not form any all stars team of them. Finance Minister Alena Schillerova is capable, Health Minister Adam Vojtech looks good and Government Commissioner for Sport Milan Hnilicka is well-known. But this does not seem enough for Babis, Korecky indicates.

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