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HN: Zeman, Babiš are closing gaps before elections

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Prague, April 28 (CTK) – Czech President Milos Zeman’s visit to the Capi hnizdo conference centre of Finance Minister Andrej Babis (ANO) yesterday will be the strongest signal of the two men’s coming close to one another before the general and presidential election, daily Hospodarske noviny (HN) writes.
Billionaire businessman Babis is suspected of a fraud with EU subsidies in connection with his Capi hnizdo (The Stork’s Nest), which is a part of his Agrofert Holding, and this underlines the importance of Zeman’s visit, HN writes.
It writes that Zeman has already supported Babis when he said recently the dubious subsidy of 53 million crowns for Capi hnizdo, which is being investigated by both the Czech police and relevant EU bodies is a trifling issue for him to deal with it, HN writes.
The Zeman-Babis alliance, whose sole rival on the political scene is Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, chairman of the Social Democrats (CSSD), is purely pragmatic, HN writes.
It writes that Zeman and Babis could not stand one another in the past. Babis supported former foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg (TOP 09) in the direct presidential election in 2013 and said Zeman is the worst possible option.
Zeman, for his part, said Babis is an untrustworthy person who does not honour agreements in the autumn 2011, shortly after Babis founded the ANO movement. Zeman blamed Babis for backing away of Unipetrol privatisation, HN writes.
Now, they compliment one another because they need one another. Babis wants to win the next general election, scheduled for the autumn of 2017, and he needs Zeman to smoothly appoint him prime minister, HN writes.
Zeman, who will probably seek re-election in 2018, wants to avoid possible complications if Babis fielded his own candidate. Zeman simply has no reason to set a man who has high voter preferences, huge money and media against himself, HN writes.
However, voices warning against Zeman and ANO coming too close to one another are rising both at Prague Castle, the presidential seat, and in ANO, HN writes.
It writes that some in ANO fear that a liking for Zeman might discourage a part of the ANO voters. The warning is coming mainly from Defence Minister Martin Storpnicky and MEP Pavel Telicka.
The strongest opposition to Babis at Prague Castle is voiced by Zeman’s influential adviser Martin Nejedly who has had long personal disputes with Babis, HN writes.
It writes that it is also true the other way round. If Babis speaks about objections to Prague Castle, he mentions Nejedly and Vratislav Mynar, head of Zeman’s office, who has not gained a security vetting.
Babis also objects to Zeman’s promotion of strong business relations with China, where he himself “got his fingers burnt,” HN writes.
The other political parties are considering joining forces against the Zeman-Babis duo, both in the general and the presidential elections, HN writes.
The senior government CSSD would have to be a part of such a coalition, but it rather bets on attracting the “anti-Babis” voters itself. To take part in an open clash with Zeman is a traditional trauma for it, HN writes.
Zeman succeeded in the renovation of the CSSD after the fall of the communist regime in 1989, was its chairman for many years and brought it to government in 1998, when he became the prime minister for four years. He left the party in 2007 because of disagreement with its leadership.
($1=23.916 crowns)

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