Prague, May 10 (CTK) – Czech presidential candidate Jiri Drahos would welcome it if incumbent President Milos Zeman decided on Finance Minister Andrej Babis’s (ANO) dismissal this week before his departure for China on Thursday night, he told CTK today.

Babis should have resigned from the government after audio recordings suggesting that he used the independent media he owned against his political rivals were released last week, said the 68-year-old Drahos, who headed the Czech Academy of Sciences until recently.

He said it seems clear that Babis interfered in the contents of daily Mlada fronta Dnes (MfD), although he promised not to do it.

The billionaire Babis is the owner of the Agrofert holding, including the Mafra media group whose part is MfD. Babis recently had to transfer his firms to trust funds in compliance with a new conflict of interest law.

Drahos criticised Zeman for acting as if PM Bohuslav Sobotka (Social Democrats, CSSD) was tendering his resignation last Thursday, although Zeman knew well that the prime minister changed his mind. The way Zeman acted was a farce, he said.

“I have to admit that I felt deeply ashamed, it was undignified,” Drahos said.

He said Zeman should act according to the constitution and dismiss Babis on Sobotka’s proposal.

Zeman said previously he would deal with Sobotka’s proposal only after he returns from China on May 18. He also argued that Babis cannot be sacked because the coalition pact of the three government parties was not terminated.

The CSSD and the junior ruling Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) have called on Zeman to abide by the constitution. Along with the right-wing opposition, these parties today pushed through a parliamentary session dealing with the controversial audio recordings of a MfD journalist talking to Babis.

Drahos said it was good that political parties managed to unite in defence of democratic principles.

He said he is seeking big sponsors as he does not have enough funds for the presidential campaign. At present, he has about 2.5 million crowns on his election bank account, which is clearly not enough, Drahos said.

He said the only thing he promises to potential sponsors is that he will promote fair play in both politics and business if he is elected president.

Drahos said he wants to launch a more intensive campaign in June when he will mostly tour the Moravia-Silesia Region.

He said he would like to have an expert team of 20 people whom he would consult during the campaign.

The direct presidential election will be held in early 2018. No experienced politician is running for president, aside from the former left-wing prime minister Zeman, 72, who will be defending his post.

Michal Horacek, another presidential candidate, said Zeman preferred his own interests to the interests of the country in the current political crisis. He said Zeman joined forces with the billionaire Babis who has influence on media in his effort to be re-elected president next year.

Opinion polls indicate that Zeman is the favourite of the presidential election, followed by Horacek, a 64-year-old lyricist and former owner of a betting company, and Drahos. All the three candidates are unaffiliated, however, Zeman is promoted by the extra-parliamentary Party of Citizens’ Rights (SPO).

($1=24.497 crowns)

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