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Minister Babiš says bill aims to push him out of politics

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Prague, Dec 19 (CTK) – Czech billionaire businessman Andrej Babis, finance minister and ANO movement head, welcomed yesterday President Milos Zeman’s decision to veto the amendment to the law on conflict of interest with which he said all other parties want to push him out of politics.
Zeman said he considers the amendment, referred to as “lex Babis,” being at variance with the country’s constitutional order.
He said the amendment is also at variance with international treaties and that it affects the individual’s freedoms and fundamental rights.
The Chamber of Deputies passed the legislation at the end of last month.
According to the amendment, the firms of billionaire Babis would lose the opportunity to seek most subsidies, public procurement and investment incentives.
The lawmakers will take a new vote on the amendment. Given the result of the previous vote, the Chamber of Deputies is likely to overturn Zeman’s veto.
The amendment also deals with certain media. It bans future government members to operate radio and television broadcasts and to publish the periodical press.
Babis’s Agrofert holding includes the Mafra media house, the Impuls radio station and the Ocko musical television station.
ANO is considering turning to the Constitutional Court (US).
Senate chairman Milan Stech (Social Democrats, CSSD) said Zeman’s veto is surprising in view of that he always supported the regulation of the grey economy.
It is also unfortunate if it is connected with Zeman’s unusual relations with Babis, whose business activities the bill targets.
Prime Minister and CSSD head Bohuslav Sobotka said “the public interests hould be protected. Ministers should not do business, seek public contracts and own the media. That is why we will override (Zeman’s) veto,” he tweeted.
Jan Chvojka (CSSD), minister for human rights, equal opportunities and legislation, the author of some passages of the bill, said he does not consider Zeman’s opinion expedient and motivated by his alliance with Babis, but as an expression of the head of state’s opinion.
Pavel Belobradek (Christian Democrats, KDU-CSL) said it is the president’s right to veto the law, but added that he expects the lawmakers to override the veto.
Petr Fiala, chairman of the rightist opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS), said Zeman’s veto proves his coming closer to Babis.
Fiala said “never before has executive power been abused to such an extent for the purpose of supporting one’s own business as it is happening now,” Fiala said.
He conceded that “Babis’s behaviour” was one of the reasons for passing the amendment, but added that even so, the bill is universal.
Miroslav Kalousek, chairman of the rightist opposition TOP 09, said the passing of the amendment is in the interest of free competition of political parties and liberal democracy.
He said Zeman’s veto is not surprising because “the political allince between the president and chairman Babis has long been clear.”
Jiri Dolejs, Communists (KSCM) deputy chairman, said only the US can say whether “lex Babis” is in consistence with the constitution, if a constitutional complaint is filed.
He said the KSCM supported the amendment even though it considers it rather symbolic and not too effective since it can be bypassed.

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