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Reflex: ANO head Babis’s challenger in next elections sought

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Prague, Oct 20 (CTK) – A challenger who would beat Czech ANO’s leader Andrej Babis is sought, this is how an advertisement before the general election to be held next autumn could read, Bohumil Pecinka writes in weekly Reflex out on Thursday.

He writes that the results of the regional and Senate elections held earlier this month could be summed as follows: Babis suffered a weak victory, the senior government Social Democrats (CSSD) suffered a strong defeat, the junior government Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) scored a success that will never repeat given the low turnout, the rightist opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS) kept its positions and several parties and movements were crushed.

Pecinka writes that there are several reasons for billionaire businessman Babis’s probable victory in the October 2017 general election. First, he puts on the look of a winner in perfectly adjusted billboards, in newspaper interviews and even when he justifies the disastrous result in the Senate election run-off vote, in which only three out of 14 ANO senatorial candidates succeeded.

Babis, who is finance minister in the coalition government, can do so because he has no decent challenger, Pecinka writes.

He writes that it is not easy to be Babis’s rival. First, the challengers must be sure of their finances because their accounts would probably be checked by financial offices.

They would need a strong business group that would allow them to at least come closer to Babis in terms of money spent on the election campaign. But to find a billionaire who would not be afraid of retaliation for sponsoring an anti-Babis would be very difficult, Pecinka writes.

He adds that the challengers would also lose their privacy thanks to Babis’s media empire.

They would have to be courages enough to figuratively rap Babis on the knuckles because Babis will respect such people and criticise them by which he will elevate them to the same level.

Pecinka writes that the Prime Minister and CSSD head, Bohuslav Sobotka, probably does not realise at all the role history has assigned to him and his party.

However, the CSSD says it does not comprehend why its traditional voters from villages and small towns are leaving it and that it wants to appeal to alternative youths who usually vote for the Greens or Pirates, which is sure to bring about its defeat, Pecinka writes.

He writes that philosopher Vaclav Belohradsky, who ran unsuccessfully for the CSSD in the Senate election, says the CSSD is a too archaic party, which excessively focuses on seniors, the unsatisfied and unsuccessful.

This must end and the CSSD must turn into a party of progressive city liberals as is usual in the West and leave its traditional electorate, Belohradsky said.

It cannot be ruled out that in 20 or 30 years, the party will look like this, but now, it is sure to be defeated by Babis, Pecinka writes.

He writes that an alliance of the KDU-CSL and the Mayors and Independents (STAN) movement, both of which were successful in the regional and Senate elections, might be a rival to Babis, but there are two factors which may mar this, Pecinka writes.

He writes that parties definitely remember that the Freedom Union, which ran in an election coalition with the KDU-CSL, was pushed away from leading positions on the joint lists of candidates because of the discipline of the KDU-CSL’s voters.

Another problem is that STAN associates local politicians from the left to the right of the political scene, which makes it unsuitable as Babis’s challenger, Pecinka writes.

He writes that the ODS, which formed several governments in the past and which suffered a big blow when Petr Necas’s government fell in 2013, has now been stagnating at nine to 10 percent.

Its problem is that it continues to derive its identity from the old (post-communist) transformation story which some voters see as a tested certainty, while it inspires others’ nostalgia for the good times when the world of the left and the right stood against one another and was quite comprehensible, Pecinka writes.

He writes that the ODS cannot be Babis’s challenger unless it offers a new story of a society in the post-transformation times.

The October elections showed again that voters are not afraid of experimenting with their votes. If a group of businesspeople and politicians were put together, they could reach the upper level just as Babis did a few years ago, Pecinka writes.

As any “one-use” party, it would have to be backed by billionaires to have enough money. It would have to offer to centre-right and protest voters an alternative to the world of “privileged business” based on targetted regulated subsidies and a game with information from the environment of its rivals, Pecinka writes.

The chances of such a party would rise if it formed a coalition with the KDU-CSL and STAN, or with the ODS, Pecinka writes.

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