Prague, May 10 (CTK) – Czech Finance Minister Andrej Babis said today’s extraordinary session of the Chamber of Deputies, staged by mainstream parties and dealing with audio recordings with a controversial debate between him and a journalist, is another attempt by his foes to “execute him in live transmission.”
Babis, whose ANO is a clear favourite of the October general election, spoke of a mega campaign organised against him in the debate at the session.
One of the recordings in question, which recently appeared on the Internet, causing uproar, show Babis and journalist Marek Pribil discuss articles to be published with the aim to harm his political rivals. Another recording seems to show Babis and Pribil discuss information leaking from ongoing police investigations. The newspaper involved is Mlada fronta Dnes (MfD), which Babis owned.
Babis called the recordings illegal and manipulated in his lower house speech today.
He insisted that his political career is clean and that he faces a campaign because he has jeopardised the political system that mainstream politicians have been building in the Czech Republic for 26 years, since the fall of communism.
Commenting on PM Bohuslav Sobotka’s (Social Democrats, CSSD) proposal on Friday that President Milos Zeman dismiss Babis over suspected tax evasion and influencing of media, Babis repeated that he will not resign, since he can see no reason for himself to do so.
Today’s extraordinary session was initiated by the rightist opposition and its programme, headlined The abuse of power by Finance Minister Andrej Babis in relation to independent institutions of democratic society, was approved by all parties in parliament except for ANO and the minor opposition Dawn movement, after a stormy debate.
CSSD deputy chairman and Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek said Babis entered politics in the early 2010s only in order to defend the interests of his business company, Agrofert Holding.
Referring to the controversial recordings of the Babis-Pribil conversation, Zaoralek accused Babis of creating Matrix in the Czech Republic instead of fighting against Matrix, which he repeatedly vowed to do when entering politics.
Zaoralek proposed that the lawmakers pass a resolution calling on Babis to resign.
ANO lawmakers stood up in fierce defence of Babis.
Justice Minister Robert Pelikan (for ANO) warned against the approval. He said the session’s proposed programme violates the Charter of fundamental rights and freedoms, which is a part of the Czech constitution.
“You are becoming accomplices of the person who has released the recordings. To toy with similar things is never beneficial,” Pelikan told the promoters of the programme.
Pelikan told the lawmakers that they, too, may be bugged by someone who would eventually release the recordings.
ANO deputies’ group chairman Jaroslav Faltynek said the planned session was a theatrical performance prepared beforehand and with its outcome determined beforehand.
The session’s programme follows a scenario prepared by “a coalition” of the CSSD and the rightist opposition TOP 09 and it is aimed to oust Babis from politics, Faltynek said.
He mentioned some suspicious affairs of the CSSD, such as the huge sum it owes for a lawyer’s services, the privatisation of the MUS coal mining company and CSSD officials suspected within the case of a vast misuse of EU subsidies in northwest Bohemia.
Babis owned Agrofert, a giant chemical, food, agricultural and media holding, until February when he transferred it to trust funds in compliance with the conflict of interest law.
Human Rights Minister Jan Chvojka (CSSD) said, in connection with the controversial recordings, that Babis has destroyed the good name of MfD and Lidove noviny (LN), which fall under the Mafra media group, a part of Agrofert.
In MfD, some journalists evidently write on political order, he said, adding that Babis should take Mafra out of a trust fund and sell it.
ANO MP Bohuslav Chalupa objected that no one has in fact proved any violation of law by Babis.
Jana Lorenzova (ANO), said by electing Babis, Czech voters gave him the mandate bother the other politicians, which he has been doing successfully.
“You find Babis bothersome. That is why you want to chase this man away from politics,” Lorenzova said, accusing other parties of organising “a coup” against Babis.