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Babiš openly lies, abuses power, Chamber of Deputies announces

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Prague, May 10 (CTK) – Czech Finance Minister Andrej Babis (ANO) repeatedly openly lied and abused his media in order to discredit his political rivals, the Chamber of Deputies agreed today at an extraordinary session dealing with audio recordings that seem to show Babis’s interferences into media reporting.

The Chamber also called on President Milos Zeman to act in complete accordance with the constitution and without any hesitations.

The resolution on Babis was supported by 94 of the 118 MPs present tonight, or nearly all except for those elected for the ANO movement. The resolution on Zeman was also clearly pushed through as 95 of 119 MPs voted in its support.

The right-wing opposition Civic Democrats (ODS) proposed the wording of the resolution.

Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (Social Democrats, CSSD) proposed Babis’s dismissal to Zeman on May 5, but Zeman has been postponing the decision on the proposal, despite pressure exerted by the CSSD, the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) and the right-wing opposition.

The Chamber said the parliamentary debate, which lasted almost eight hours today, deepened rather than resolved the government crisis. It called on PM Sobotka to submit a report on how to deal with the crisis to its next session.

ANO urged Sobotka to step down as prime minister, however, the lower house of parliament rejected this call.

Chamber deputy chairman Radek Vondracek (ANO) said the house made the decisions based on illegally made and manipulated recordings. “We start walking in dirt. The only sense in it is the campaign before the elections,” he said.

Vondracek said this was a confrontation and liquidation campaign aimed against Babis.

He said the resolution concerning Zeman is pointless. The president must proceed according to the constitution, but he can consult the situation with politicians, he said.

Vondracek said the prime minister merely presented Babis’s resignation but he did not say what would be the next steps.

The opposition Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) of populist Tomio Okamura proposed that Sobotka tender the originally planned resignation of his government to Zeman, but the proposal did not win enough support. Okamura also wanted President Zeman to come to the Chamber and explain his stances on the solution to the current situation.

Right-wing opposition leaders Petr Fiala (Civic Democrats, ODS) and Miroslav Kalousek (TOP 09) welcomed the result of the session.

“Abuse of media and leaked police files against the (political) competition is unacceptable,” Fiala said. Early elections seem to be the most reasonable step to be taken, he added.

CSSD deputy chairman Lubomir Zaoralek said the core of the problem has not been removed. He said Babis failed to explain what is happening in the national dailies Mlada fronta Dnes (MfD) and Lidove noviny (LN) over which he has control.

Babis was the sole owner of the giant Agrofert chemical, food-processing, agriculture, wood-processing and media holding. Earlier this year, he had to transfer Agrofert to trust funds to meet a new conflict of interest law.

Zaoralek said he hoped that the Chamber’s resolution would be a clear impulse for President Zeman to take action.

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