Matt Atlas

Babis Target Of Billboards Of ‘Shame’ Campaign

Andrej Babiš

Billboards targeting billionaire Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis have popped up across the country this week, showing portraits of citizens expressing “shame” over fraud charges he faces.


The high-profile “I am ashamed of my prime minister” campaign was dreamed up by advertising executive Jaroslav Polacek.


Billionaire Babis, the second wealthiest person in the country, faces criminal charges over alleged EU subsidy fraud stretching back a decade.


A leaked EU report from last November suggested a conflict of interest between his role as head of the Czech government and EU subsidies that went to his businesses.


He has dismissed all the allegations as part of a smear campaign.


But nearly 100 Czechs, including celebrities and ordinary citizens, have appeared on the billboards.


“The degree of shame caused by the prime minister is so high that it requires a reaction,” Polacek told AFP, who plans to take the campaign online.


He got the idea after friends abroad asked him to explain why Babis could serve as PM when facing corruption charges.


“Friends asked me if we’re a banana republic,” Polacek said. “I wasn’t angry, I felt shame.”


PRodukujeme, the agency he owns, has covered the printing and graphics, but the billboards themselves are paid for by the protesters who appear on them.


Popular rock singer Krystof Michal spent 175 euros ($200) to take part.


“I wanted to step out of my social bubble, to make my stance visible to people other than my Facebook friends,” Michal, frontman of the Portless rock group, told AFP.


“I don’t think he is the right person to be prime minister, even though the nation has elected him which is something we must respect,” he said.


Babis, whose populist ANO movement tops opinion polls, has invited his billboard critics to meet him.


“I’ll buy everyone a cup of coffee and persuade them that there’s nothing to be ashamed of and that I represent the Czech Republic well across the globe,” he said.


But Michal has turned him down.


“The media outcome will be that the good prime minister has met the hysterical crowd so he will abuse it in the end,” he said.