Prague, April 6 (CTK) – The Czech Social Democrats’ (CSSD) broader leadership confirmed the end of negotiations with the ANO movement of Andrej Babis on government cooperation and agrees with the way their chairman Jan Hamacek and first deputy head Jiri Zimola conducted the talks, according to CTK sources.
The decision was unanimous, Zimola told reporters after the meeting.
Hamacek and Zimola presented to the party’s broader leadership how the talks with ANO had proceeded in the past weeks.
“Then the leadership unanimously approved our steps during the talks by the votes of all members present and it also terminated the talks with the ANO movement on the formation of a possible coalition,” Zimola said.
During the talks, the ANO movement decided to refuse a stable government and now it is using a marketing strategy to try to cover up the core of our opinion differences due to which the talks failed, Zimola said.
“It is not the CSSD who is responsible for this, but the ANO movement is to blame because of the conditions it offered and that it was not willing to change,” he said.
He also refuted Babis’s statements that the CSSD had only demanded the interior minister’s post for Hamacek during the talks. “This is a marketing move that is covering the merit that is the criminal prosecution of the supreme government member (PM Babis),” he said.
Babis is prosecuted on suspicion of an EU subsidy fraud in the case of the Capi hnizdo farm and conference centre.
Hamacek told reporters before a meeting of the party’s leadership that he would submit the proposal for terminating the talks with ANO to the delegates to the CSSD congress in Hradec Kralove, east Bohemia, on Saturday.
He also said the Social Democrats did not need to be a “fig leaf” to cover up Babis’s government. He added that if Babis, the current PM, changed his stance, the door to further talks could be opened again.
The CSSD wants to be an equal partner in a possible government coalition, Hamacek said, complaining about Babis’s attacks on the Social Democrats in the media.
The CSSD withdrew from the government talks on Thursday night since ANO had not accepted any of its proposals for the division of posts in their future coalition cabinet that would eliminate the criminally prosecuted Babis in the PM’s role.
ANO representatives told reporters that the CSSD had rejected their generous proposals since it insisted on the interior minister’s post.
Hamacek dismissed this, saying the CSSD had also offered the alternatives of a cabinet lineup without both parties’ chairmen to ANO.
According to CTK sources, in the past few weeks, the CSSD faced pressure of the rank-end-file members who were annoyed by Babis’s statements in the media during the talks and ANO’s unwillingness to make personnel concessions.
Zimola said today that the Social Democrats concluded at their meetings in regions that the party should not seek a coalition partnership unless conditions changed.
Most of the CSSD regional organisations’ leaders consider the termination of the CSSD talks with ANO on a joint government the right step and they stand by Hamacek in this respect, they told CTK.
They also blame ANO and the stubbornness of its leader Babis for the collapse of the talks. However, some of them, such as Vysocina Regional Governor Jiri Behounek (CSSD), say they do not have enough information yet to comment on the situation.
It is up to Babis to propose a solution now, Zimola said, adding that he expected President Milos Zeman to ask Babis to inform him why the talks had failed.
“We are prepared to inform him (Zeman) why we could not accept the ANO conditions. This was not about personnel issues, Jan Hamacek or the Interior Ministry, but it was about the whole series of Babis’s offences aimed at the CSSD, making not a coalition partner of it, but a mere makeweight of his majority governance repeatedly,” Zimola said.
However, Babis rejected the accusations of offending the Social Democrats as nonsense. “I was not offending them,” he told public Czech Television (CT), adding that, on the contrary, Senate chairman Milan Stech and senator Jiri Dienstbier (both CSSD) personally offended him.
The ANO-CSSD talks took place in a normal, open atmosphere, Babis added.
The CSSD and ANO, along with the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL), formed the previous coalition government. Babis says the CSSD leadership was behind all “fabricated cases” on him, which culminated with former Social Democrat PM Bohuslav Sobotka sacking him from the government, in which he was the finance minister.