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Babiš not against ČSSD experts joining his next gov’t

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Prague, Feb 20 (CTK) – Czech ANO head Andrej Babis prefers the variant of the Social Democrats (CSSD) tolerating his next single-party minority cabinet in parliament in exchange for a programme deal, he says in daily Pravo out on Tuesday, adding that he would not oppose the CSSD naming experts for ministers either.

If the CSSD proposed “good experts” for the posts of ministers or deputy ministers, Babis is ready to discuss the nominations, he said.

The first minority cabinet Babis’s election-winning ANO formed in December has lost a confidence vote in parliament and is ruling in resignation. President Milos Zeman has assigned Babis to launch new government-forming negotiations.

In recent weeks, Babis said he was waiting for a CSSD congress to elect a new leader and decide on the party’s possible government cooperation with ANO. The congress on February 18 decided that the CSSD, with Jan Hamacek as its new chairman, should launch negotiations with ANO.

Babis told Pravo that ANO primarily wants to hear the CSSD’s position. “For us, the best variant is if the CSSD tolerated our one-party cabinet and enabled us to win the confidence vote based on a programme deal,” he said.

Asked how ANO can guarantee its alliance with the CSSD even after its cabinet won confidence and did not need the CSSD any more, as there are other parties in parliament to help it push through bills, Babis said he supposes that a written deal would be signed to define the programme goals the government would push through in exchange for the CSSD’s support.

“This will be publicly known, therefore we will not be able to cheat anyone,” Babis said.

He admitted that ANO can never agree with the CSSD on programme points such as changes to the sickness leave system or an increase of the tax for big firms with the profit exceeding 100 million crowns.

“Nevertheless, we can agree on pensions, social services, the fight against migration, social housing and other issues. There are goals we can discuss,” Babis is quoted as saying.

He said he wants his next government to ask parliament for a vote of confidence as soon as possible, but by all means will ANO wait for the CSSD to finish its now interrupted congress on April 7, he said.

Asked whether he considers it a problem that the CSSD has called on ANO not to nominate a prosecuted person to the cabinet, Babis, who faces prosecution over a suspected EU subsidy fraud, said he does not consider this a condition set by the CSSD.

“They have urged us and we will discuss their appeal. I was ANO’s candidate for prime minister before the elections and I keep the position after the elections as well,” Babis said.

Asked whether he believes that his cabinet will be supported by his foes among the CSSD MPs, such as Bohuslav Sobotka, Milan Chovanec and Lubomir Zaoralek, Babis said he expects the CSSD to “take care of” Sobotka, because his current post of a lawmaker is inadequate compared with his previous post of a prime minister.

“The same seems to apply to Mr Chovanec,” Babis said, referring to the former interior minister and the CSSD’s former acting chairman.

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