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January 26, 2018 7:30 am | FILED UNDER: politics

Babis Plays Hardball with CSSD: Suspends Talks Until February

By ČTK andrej babis

Prague, (CTK) – ANO has interrupted talks on the next Czech government with the Social Democrats (CSSD) until their February election congress, which indicates the movement’s cooperation with the Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) and Communists (KSCM), CSSD acting head Milan Chovanec said today.

 

Another motive might be the effort to make the CSSD soften its conditions for joining the government with ANO, Chovanec wrote in a press release.

 

So far the Social Democrats have insisted that they will not join a cabinet headed by a prosecuted prime minister. ANO chairman and current PM in resignation Andrej Babis is accused of an EU subsidy fraud in the case of Capi hnizdo farm. The Chamber of Deputies released him for prosecution last week.

 

“On Wednesday night, ANO chairman Andrej Babis sent me a message saying he does not intend to continue the talks with the current CSSD and that he wants to wait for the new leadership emerging from our congress in the second half of February. ANO has thus been confirming for three months in a row that the only partners with whom it is willing to negotiate seriously are the SPD and KSCM, while it is ignoring the other democratic political parties,” Chovanec said.

 

He said ANO either had agreed on government cooperation with the SPD and KSCM already, or it expected the CSSD congress to give up the conditions for the party’s entry into a government with ANO.

 

The CSSD demands that no prosecuted person be in the government, that ANO does not head the finance, justice and interior ministries over the investigation into the Capi hnizdo case, implicating Babis and ANO first deputy head Jaroslav Faltynek, and that conflict of interest be prevented at the agriculture, industry and trade and environment ministries in relation to the business activities of the Agrofert holding.

 

Billionaire businessman Babis owned Agrofert, but transferred it to trust funds to comply with an amended conflict of interest law last year.

 

As far as the programme priorities are concerned, the CSSD demands a pro-European course of the government and support for families with children in the spheres of housing, job opportunities and education.

 

“There is no reason to think that the CSSD congress will not approve the grounds of these conditions and that it will accept the undignified role of ‘a fig leave’ to cover the existing coalition of ANO, the SPD and the KSCM that has been working in the Chamber of Deputies since the last October general) election,” Chovanec wrote.

 

The CSSD will not enter a government at any cost, he stressed.

 

Babis’s ANO minority government approved its resignation a week ago, five weeks after its appointment, as the Chamber of Deputies did not vote confidence in it, and President Milos Zeman accepted the resignation on Wednesday. He also entrusted Babis with talks on the formation of a new cabinet.

 

ANO launched talks on government cooperation with the other parties in parliament last week. It met the CSSD first, followed by the SPD, KSCM, ODS and the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL).

 

The Civic Democrats rejected a government cooperation with ANO directly, while the KDU-CSL and CSSD make it conditional on that no prosecuted person be in the government. ANO set up expert teams with the KSCM and SPD to seek joint programme points.

 

ANO has 78 MPs in the 200-seat Chamber of Deputies and its coalition with the CSSD (15) would have 93, so it would need support of other parties in the lower house to have majority. The SPD has 22 MPs, the KSCM 15 and Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) ten.

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