Prague, (CTK) – Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis (ANO) will support incumbent President Milos Zeman in the forthcoming direct presidential election, he told a press conference today, adding that this is his own opinion and not an official stance of the ANO movement.
ANO will not take any official position on the direct presidential election since voters are reasonable and do not need any advice on how they should vote, Babis said.
He said he considers Zeman a strong personality that polarises society but does not steal, is not afraid to say his opinion openly, is devoted to politics and fights for the interests of Czech businesspeople.
“It is a person who fights for our national interests, who is not afraid to present his clear opinion of Brussels and refugee quotas and is proud of his country,” Babis said.
Civic Democrat (ODS) leader Petr Fiala said Babis’s support for Zeman was a result of their power pact.
Babis dismissed the view that he made a power pact with Zeman.
Mayors and Independents (STAN) chairman Petr Gazdik said Babis preferred Zeman looking eastwards. “Babis could have chosen among personalities that are respected by the countries in the west and invited to them. He chose the east and the embrace of Russian interests,” Gazdik said.
“Andrej Babis who is suspected of a theft claims that he will cast his vote for Milos Zeman because Zeman does not steal,” said presidential candidate Marek Hilser, referring to the criminal prosecution Babis is facing over suspected fraud of a 50 million crown EU subsidy.
Another presidential candidate, former prime minister Mirek Topolanek, said Babis’s support for Zeman is related to the fact that Zeman announced on Wednesday that he would want Babis to present signatures of a majority of MPs supporting his next government before he would appoint him prime minister again.
Topolanek indicated that Zeman exerted pressure on Babis in this way to make him express support for his re-election.
Before the second round of the previous presidential election in 2013, Babis told daily Hospodarske noviny (HN) he would vote for Zeman’s rival Karel Schwarzenberg because Zeman continued with the capitalist mafia and corruption style of former president Vaclav Klaus. Now Babis said he did not have enough information at the time when he was entering politics and the ANO movement criticised traditional political parties, including the power-sharing pact of the right-wing ODS of Klaus and the Social Democrats (CSSD) of Zeman.
Babis admitted that he recently had a meeting with Zeman’s office head Vratislav Mynar. He said this meeting did not influence his position on the presidential election.
Some right-wing opposition politicians said Zeman and Babis made a pact – Zeman helping Babis become prime minister and Babis helping Zeman defend the presidential post in exchange.
The first round of the presidential election will be held on Friday and Saturday. Unless one candidate wins a majority of the vote, which seems rather unlikely now, the two most successful ones will meet in the runoff two weeks later.
Nine candidates are running for the post. Zeman is considered the favourite of the election and Academy of Sciences former head Jiri Drahos his strongest rival.
The parliamentary session that will take a confidence vote in Babis’s minority cabinet opened on Wednesday, but it was postponed until Tuesday, January 16.
Babis said the opposition only wanted to offend him and show off as the parliamentary session was broadcast live by television.
None of the other parties in parliament is ready to support or tolerate Babis’s government. Some parties demanded that the confidence vote be held only after parliament decided whether to release Babis for criminal prosecution over a suspected EU subsidy fraud or not.
The opposition labelled the session on the confidence vote a failure of ANO, a big disgrace and a vaudeville.
ANO will remain in power even if its minority government fails to win parliament’s support because Zeman promised to entrust Babis with trying to form a government again.