The centrist Czech political parties that like to call themselves “democratic” and the business interests behind them have underestimated Andrej Babiš every step of the way. In panic, they overplayed their hand in the 2017 election campaign, thinking that an anti-Babiš platform would prevail.
The result was an overwhelming ANO victory in Oct. 2017, with the next party, ODS, trailing ANO’s 29.64% finish by an unprecedented 18.32 percentage points. Babiš won 162% more votes than the runner-up, ODS, and 307% more than the winner in the 2013 elections, ČSSD.
This happened because the “democratic” parties underestimated Babiš. If these four parties had known in 2013 what they know now, they could have done then what they can only dream of now. They could have shut Babiš out of the government. They could have significantly restricted his platform for exercising influence and control over the Czech political and business environment by not allowing him an executive position.
These four “democratic” parties currently have 29.70% of the vote (34.88% with STAN) and 57 seats (63 with STAN). After the 2013 parliamentary elections, they had 46.94% of the vote and 106 seats in Parliament. These four parties had a solid majority in Parliament but underestimated Babiš by so much that instead of joining forces to shut him out, they let him in. They refused to cross the Left- Right divide, because ČSSD, ODS and TOP 09 couldn’t work together. The result of this inability to see the future was a coalition of ČSSD, ANO and KDU-ČSL that came to be dominated by ANO.
Babiš likes to say that the traditional political parties created him, and in this sense, it certainly is true. They needlessly turned the country over to him.
Mirek Topolánek’s entry this week into the presidential race is a belated effort to bring Babiš back into check. The four “democratic” parties (plus STAN) now have only 34.88% of the vote and 63 seats, and they are further handicapped by Babiš’s unwillingness to work with ČSSD. Because of this, the business interests associated with EPH, ČEZ and PPF that were once the backbone of ČSSD’s support are now quickly moving over or back to ODS.
Topolánek’s candidacy for president serves a dual purpose for the business interests behind him. First, it signals to Babiš their strong willingness to negotiate, because they are abandoning the joint candidate of ČSSD a.s., Jiří Drahoš. They can always return later to Drahoš if he makes it into the final round.
Topolánek’s candidacy also has its risks. As much as his backers are trying to downplay his connections to EPH, ČEZ and PPF, voters are becoming aware of them. Topolánek has an undeniable place in Petr Honzejk’s diagram of the Martin Roman empire. On Twitter, Topolánek called Erik Best the new Dean Reed for pointing out some of his connections.
The interests behind Topolánek underestimated Babiš for so long that they were forced to take a big risk. They can’t level the playing field, but at least the two sides are playing the same game again.
Source: The Fleet Sheet’s Final Word