Matt Atlas

Babiš and Zeman Plotting Post-Election Czexit?

Andrej Babiš, Czech Republic, Miloš Zeman

As Rebecca Perring writes in a post-election Czexit could be in play. Excerpt below.

Billionaire former finance minister Andrej Babis is heading up a campaign steered towards Czechs who feel forgotten by the Brussels club, and his anti-EU rhetoric is gathering momentum, as polls predict he will seize power in the October elections. 

His anti-establishment party ANO (Yes) boasts a list of policies, which outline plans to stamp out Brussels authority, including the rejection of the euro because it would “be another issue that Brussels would be meddling with”.

Mr Babis’ victory would be a crushing blow for the embattled bloc, which is already trying to stem growing populism, just recently highlighted in Germany after the AfD got 12.6 per cent of the vote in the German elections.

A decisive ANO victory on October 20 could further cement the Czechs’ anti-European Union views at a time when France and Germany are calling for greater Brussels integration in a bid to rebuild the bloc.

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Babis is steering towards an independence referendum in Czech Republic if he takes power

Billionaire former finance minister Andrej Babis is heading up a campaign steered towards Czechs who feel forgotten by the Brussels club

The latest survey by polling agency Median shows the Social Democrats getting only 14.5 per cent of the vote, trailing ANO’s 26.5 per cent and just ahead of the pro-Russian Communist Party, with 13 per cent.

Mr Babis, 63, is known for his controversial comments in the wake of the Berlin Christmas market terror attack.

The Czech billionaire said German Chancellor Angela Merkel bore responsibility for the atrocity and migrants had “no place” in Europe.

The Czech Republic only joined the EU in 2004 and has been the beneficiary of billions in development funds, but has some of the most hostile public opinion.

Babis said Merkel bore responsibility for the Berlin terror attack

It has long been embroiled in an ongoing row with Brussels over its migrant quotas after the Czech Republic announced it will refuse to take in any refugees under the scheme.

Prague defied repeated calls by eurocrats to speed up the rate at which it processed people by only taking in a handful of the 2,691 migrants which Brussels order it to in its quota.

The move prompted the EU to warn it would risk losing funding unless they meet quotas for allowing migrants to enter the country, and take their fair share of the escalating crisis.

Meanwhile, the gap between the East and West of the bloc appeared to widen during Europe’s escalating refugee crisis as Mrs Merkel welcomed refugees in to Germany with open arms, while Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary saw a boost in anti-immigration and eurosceptic parties.

Babis is tapping into the minds of disgruntled Czechs

Jiri Pehe, a prominent political commentator and advisor to former president Vaclav Havel, said: “There is a danger that the Czech Republic could now slide towards the kind of populism seen in Hungary and Poland.

“They could do a lot of damage in the EU.”

But Matthew Mokhefi-Ashton, politics and international relations expert from Nottingham-Trent University told that although Mr Babis will put up a good fight against the EU, he is unlikely to call a independence referendum.

He said: “While I think he’ll continue to talk a good fight and sabre rattle, I’d be very surprised if he actually calls a referendum.

“If he loses it he’d lose prestige, if he wins it he’d have to preside over massive cuts in public spending. It would be a lose lose situation.”

Mr Mokhefi-Ashton said countries including Poland, Hungary and Czech Republic “get significantly more out of the EU financially then they put in”.

Speaking on a recent episode of the foreign policy podcast Altamar, host Peter Schechter described Babis as a populist threat to the European order, representing many of the worst trends sweeping the region.