Prague, Jan 23 (CTK) – Czech MEP Petr Jezek, who was elected to the European Parliament for the ANO movement of Andrej Babis, ended his cooperation with ANO, he said in a letter he sent to the ANO leadership on Tuesday.

“ANO is a different movement now and it plays a different role than before,” he said in the letter which is available to CTK, adding that ANO has become highly popular, but left its original ideas.

Jezek is close to EP Vice President Pavel Telicka (unaffiliated) who stopped cooperating with ANO last autumn.

In reaction to Jezek, ANO deputy chairman Jaroslav Faltynek said on Tuesday the question of ANO and Jezek’s divorce has persisted for long.

“We are glad that he is leaving our movement. We would also welcome it if he gave up his mandate of a MEP that he won [as ANO’s candidate] and for which he earns about 500,000 crowns a month,” Faltynek told journalists on behalf of ANO.

Jezek said he disagreed with ANO’s support for the re-election of Czech President Milos Zeman and with the movement’s relations to the Communist Party (KSCM) and the extreme right Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) movement of Tomio Okamura.

He also said he had a different opinion on the demands a prime ministers should meet.

On Monday, four days before the Czech presidential runoff, ANO declared that it supports Zeman against his rival, academic Jiri Drahos.

Jezek said the ANO leadership considered Zeman in 2013 a self-centered politician who divided Czech society and was linked to controversial figures, but after his tragic performance of the presidential post, Zeman has become a candidate whom the ANO leaders recommend to voters.

On Monday, ANO also said Babis continues to be its only candidate for prime minister.

Babis is prosecuted over a suspected EU subsidy fraud. Last week, the lower house of Czech parliament stripped him of his immunity to allow his prosecution and Babis’s minority cabinet lost the confidence vote.

The other Czech parties refuse to join or tolerate ANO’s government mainly because Babis insists on being prime minister despite his prosecution. Zeman said he will appoint Babis as prime minister again, while Drahos said a prosecuted person should not head the government.

Jezek indicated that ANO is weakening the Czech Republic.

When Telicka was ending his cooperation with ANO, he said the main reasons were the ANO leadership’s support for Zeman and very different opinions he and Babis had on European affairs. Telicka was ANO’s election leader in the latest EP elections.

ANO originally had four MEPs and it is part of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe group (ALDE). ANO MEPs Dita Charanzova and Martina Dlabajova said nothing about leaving Babis’s movement, however, before the first round of the presidential election they declared that they do not support Zeman.

Jezek said he joined ANO at a time when it was not popular yet. He said ANO wanted to change Czech politics then, presenting itself as anti-corruption, liberal, centre-right and pro-European.

Jezek said he is open to a discussion with ANO about his seat in the EP, but he added that the mandates belong to the MEPs irrespective of whether they remain members of the parties for which they were elected.

Charanzova told CTK on Tuesday that she is not considering leaving ANO, but she does not identify with ANO’s support for Zeman as presidential candidate. “Milos Zeman is not my candidate,” she said.

Dlabajova said that she respects Jezek’s reasons for his departure and partly agrees with them, mainly as far as ANO’s support for Zeman’s candidacy is concerned.

She said she declared her disagreement with the support for Zeman before the January 12-13 first round of the direct presidential election and that her opinion remains unchanged ahead of the runoff vote due this weekend.

Dlabajova wants to complete her mandate as a MEP and she shares the ANO leadership’s opinion that the Czech Republic should be more active in the EU, she told CTK.