Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis


PM Babis’s Early Election Talk Puts Opposition on Defensive

Prague, Feb 4 (CTK) – Outgoing PM Andrej Babis’s words about possible early elections are the preparation for his ANO’s new cabinet-forming negotiations, Social Democrat (CSSD) acting head Milan Chovanec said today, while TOP 09 chairman Jiri Pospisil called them a tactical statement aimed to corner mainly the CSSD.


In an interview with daily Pravo out on Saturday, Babis admitted that an early general election might be held if his nascent second cabinet fails to win the Chamber of Deputies’ confidence. He said he want to find lawmakers’ support for his new cabinet by the end of February.


ANO, which won the October general election but whose single-party minority cabinet failed to win parliament’s confidence, says it is waiting for the outcome of the CSSD’s February 18 congress to see whether an ANO-CSSD government cooperation is feasible.


In a debate on Prima TV today, Chovanec called Babis’s words on the early election possibility a kind of a threat aimed to bring ANO’s government-forming talks with other parties to mutual agreement.


“Andrej Babis knows how to put his finger on it,” Chovanec, one of the candidates to seek CSSD chairmanship at the party’s upcoming congress, said.


Babis’s words met with a similar reaction of Jan Hamacek, CSSD deputy chairman and another bidder for chairmanship, in a discussion on public Czech Television (CT) today.


Really, the threatening with early elections amounts to pressure, Hamacek said.


He said he can see no will on the part of lawmakers to dissolve the Chamber of Deputies as a path towards an early election.


Commenting on Babis’s words on CT, Chamber of Deputies chairman Radek Vondracek (ANO) said Babis, the ANO leader, “is used to push things forwards.”


Vondracek said he considers the end-February deadline an optimal development, but its crossing by a week or two would not matter.


“Our task is [to form] a stable government with [lawmakers’] confidence,” he said.


Chovanec and Pospisil mentioned a possible prospect of an ANO cabinet supported by the Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) and the Communists (KSCM).


Chovanec said the CSSD, which suffered a debacle in the general election, needs its own restart most of all.


The CSSD’s only demand for the new government is that it be pro-European, which is incompatible with the [anti-EU] position of the SPD, Chovanec said.


“We need not be part of the government at all,” he said on behalf of the CSSD.


Hamacek, for his part, admitted the CSSD’s possible government cooperation with ANO.


On server, he said today that it would bring no added value to the CSSD if it tolerated a single-party minority cabinet of ANO.


The CSSD is choosing between joining a [government] coalition or switching to opposition. “It is up to our congress to define the CSSD’s mandate for the negotiations with ANO,” Hamacek said in the debate on CT later today.


He said the CSSD is not united on which option to prefer.


Nevertheless, an ANO-CSSD tandem would have only 93 seats in the 200-seat Chamber of Deputies, and another government partner or an ally tolerating the two-party minority government would be needed for it to win the Chamber’s confidence.


Out of the remaining seven parties in parliament, observers mention the KSCM (15 seats) and the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL, 10 seats) most often of all in this connection.


Hamacek described an early general election as an “uncomfortable variant,” while both Chovanec and Pospisil asserted that they do not fear an early election.


Pospisil emphasised that the political responsibility for forming a new government is borne by ANO, the October election winner. A possible failure to form a cabinet would be a failure of ANO and Babis, Pospisil said.