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Western press refers to new era to follow Czech general election

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Prague/Brussels/Rome, Oct 22 (CTK) – West European media wrote on Sunday about what they call a new era after the Czech October 20-21 general election that has changed the country’s long-lasting political setup.

The British daily The Guardian writes that the Czech Republic finds itself at the start of a populist new era now that the Czechs massively supported Andrej Babis and his ANO movement and rejected traditional parties.

According to The Daily Telegraph, the Czech election results keep to the regional trend of populist and far-right parties strengthening their position at the cost of left-wing and pro-European main streams.

This is an earthquake, a rebellion against the established parties and the mainstream, Financial Times wrote, citing analyst Milan Nic, from the German council for foreign relations think-tank.

Nic said he cannot remember any other Czech elections since the 1990s that would change the political scene so profoundly.

Another British daily, The Independent, said Czech traditional parties have received a heavy blow, since out of the five best-faring parties, four challenge the traditional political streams.

“Although Babis is a billionaire and is suspected of fraud involving EU subsidies, he gives a hope to those who consider themselves outcasts from the prosperous Czech society,” writes the French daily Le Monde.

The Independent writes that many Czechs consider Babis a trustworthy outsider who will shake the [unpopular] present system.

The Swiss daily Le Temps writes that though the Czech economy has fared well, there are financially disadvantaged groups in the country, including heavily indebted people and those who have to work hard to keep afloat, who make the traditional political elites accountable for their situation.

Le Parisien daily notes a relative big success Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD), an anti-Islam and anti-immigration party of Tomio Okamura, which ended fourth with 10.6 percent of the vote, closely behind the second Civic Democrats (ODS, 11.3 percent) and the third Pirates (10.8).

“If the SPD succeeds in influencing the new government, the Czech Republic might lose its unofficial position of the ‘best of the bad boys in East Europe’ or in the Visegrad Four (V4) group that also consists of Hungary, Poland and Slovakia and that often has chilly relations with Brussels,” Le Parisien writes.

Despite its high gain, the SPD ended defeated by the newcomer Pirates.

Nic told Financial Times that he considers the Pirates’ rise an expression of the frustrated vote of young people who seem to have seen no other alternatives. The Pirates’ supporters are probably mainly young voters for whom Okamura was too much [radical], Nic said.

German dailies describe the election-winning Babis as an Eurosceptic and opponent of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s migrant policy.

Paying preferential attention to the developments in Spain, German dailies mention the Czech developments in short articles only.

“The controversial populist Andrej Babis is the clear winner of the Czech parliamentary election,” writes the most-read newspaper Bild and presents Babis as a politician refusing closer cooperation within the EU.

“Czechs have chosen a billionaire,” reads the headline of a similarly brief article in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung largely based on information from the dpa press agency and stating that the Czech Republic has shifted markedly rightwards.

FAZ, too points out Babis’s positions on the EU and migration, and notes the “debacle” of the Social Democrats (CSSD) and the success of the “right-wing extremist” SPD.

Die Welt refers to a clear victory of Babis, a billionaire and populist whom many compare to U.S. President Donald Trump.

In its programme, the ANO “movement promises to lower taxes, chase corrupt politicians away from offices and close European borders so that no refugee can enter the Czech Republic,” Die Welt writes.

The Berlin daily Tagesspiegel completely takes over dpa’s story saying that Babis wants to manage the Czech state like a business company and referring to the prosecution he faces for a suspected subsidy fraud.

Judging by official reactions, German politicians do not pay much attention to the Czech elections. Only the German Pirates have reacted to the Czech vote so far, congratulating their counterparts on their “brilliant success.”

The Brussels-based portal Politico writes that anti- immigration political groupings are usurping more and more stronger influence in Europe, including the Czech Republic where the future PM Babis is speaking about the EU contemptuously and claims that the country should not accept a single refugee.

The Czech Republic is a fresh example of a country where the popularity of ultra-right forces is rising, the portal writes, adding that these parties scored success in the recent elections in Germany and Austria, too.

Politico points to a certain resemblance between European nationalist movements and the election of Donald Trump U.S. president last year. Similar to Trump, the next Czech PM Babis does not mince his words either, the portal adds.

Italian media also compare Babis with Trump and with former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

The liberal daily Corriere della Sera writes that though Babis does not own a football club like Berlusconi in the past, he resembles him in all aspects except for one thing: No one can accuse Berlusconi of his Communist past. The daily hints at the fact that Babis was a member of the pre-1989 Communist party and he is suspected of collaboration with the former Communist secret police (StB).

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