Prague, Dec 17 (CTK) – Czech President Milos Zeman has allied with Finance Minister and popular ANO movement chairman Andrej Babis recently in order to prevent Babis from thwarting his re-election as president in 2018, Petr Kambersky writes in daily Lidove noviny (LN) Saturday.
He reacts to what he calls a nervous message that has been addressed to Zeman by Milan Chovanec, the interior minister and first deputy chairman of the government Social Democrats (CSSD), who is widely considered an ally of Zeman.
Chovanec reportedly said he hopes and believes that the president will be impartial and will seek a path towards the CSSD as his former home party. If not, the CSSD will be left with no other possibility than seeking another presidential candidate in its planned internal referendum, Chovanec said, cited by Kambersky.
Chovanec’s irritation at Zeman’s alliance with Babis, whose ANO is the CSSD’s government partner but also the biggest rival in the forthcoming general election, is understandable, as was Babis’s irritation at Zeman supporting Chovanec’s police shakeup plan earlier this week, Kambersky writes.
The two, Babis and Zeman, have been effectively defending their interests, he continues.
Zeman needs Babis, a billionaire food, chemical and media magnate, who is the only one who could field a strong rival candidate against Zeman and use all his political and economic strength to push the candidate through, Kambersky writes.
He mentions Defence Minister Martin Stropnicky (ANO) and EU commissioner Vera Jourova (ANO) as examples of such rival candidates.
That is why Zeman and the Presidential Office’s approach to Babis has become so responsive, he writes.
On the contrary, Zeman does not need the CSSD, a party he chaired in 1993-2001, for which he was prime minister in 1998-2002, and with which he fell out in the mid-2000s, because “he already has the CSSD,” Kambersky writes.
Before the early 2013 first direct presidential election, the CSSD did it utmost to prevent Zeman’s victory, but still, in the end, it was forced to support him [against the right-wing rival] in the runoff vote, Kambersky writes.
If Zeman decides to seek re-election in 2018, he will be sure of support from a majority of fans of the CSSD and the Communists (KSCM), Kambersky writes.
When it comes to Chovanec’s threatening message to Zeman, the CSSD has no candidate to field against him. If it had any, the candidate would have become president long ago, Kambersky writes.
Before the 2013 election, the CSSD chose Jiri Dienstbier as its candidate for president. He did not advance to the runoff race. In early 2014, he became human rights minister in the new cabinet of CSSD chairman Bohuslav Sobotka, who, however, sacked him a few weeks ago, Kambersky adds.
Chovanec’s “message to Zeman” is also discussed by commentator Alexandr Mitrofanov in Pravo.
Chovanec voiced it at a closed CSSD meeting but was forced to release his speech in order to dissipate the media speculation that he incited rail workers to go on strike, Mitrofanov writes.
For a long time, Chovanec succeeded in standing against Zeman and enjoying his favour at the same time, Mitrofanov writes.
He mentions the “Lany coup” in late 2013, when Chovanec and another four CSSD officials had a secret meeting with Zeman, after which they unsuccessfully attempted to oust Sobotka from the post-election talks and prevent his appointment as prime minister.
The official explanation is that the coup was initiated by South Moravia Governor Michal Hasek, but in the CSSD it is widely believed that Chovanec was the initiator, Mitrofanov writes.
The attempt was finally thwarted by Chovanec himself who switched to the camp of Sobotka’s supporters, he writes.
Miraculously, Chovanec did not lose his access to Zeman then. After the CSSD’s failure in the October regional elections, it was Chovanec who corrected Sobotka’s first reaction and spoke about the CSSD’s traditional electorate and good relations with the president, Mitrofanov writes.
At the recent closed meeting, Chovanec said he is sorry about the evident Zeman-Babis approximation. He condemned Zeman’s praise of Babis’s skills as finance minister and said the country has a government of Sobotka, not Babis. He said he expects Zeman’s impartiality and “path to the CSSD” as his former home party, otherwise the CSSD would be forced to seek another presidential candidate, Mitrofanov writes.
In his message, Chovanec indicated that Zeman cannot be sure of the CSSD’s support until Chovanec has a say on it, Mitrofanov writes.