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Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis addresses parliament
Image: Reuters/D.W. Cerny

Czech government loses confidence vote

January 16, 2018

Prime Minister Andrej Babis, the country's second richest man, is mired in opposition over corruption concerns. His ANO party will remain in power, but his own future remains uncertain.


Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis has lost a vote of confidence in parliament on Tuesday. Originally scheduled for January 10, the vote was delayed after an eight-hour debate last week.

Babis, the country's second wealthiest man, is fighting corruption allegations related to suspicious EU subsidies that benefitted his business a decade ago. Since his ANO (Yes) party won last October's election by a large margin, it will certainly stay in power. The only question is whether Babis will remain at the helm.

Parliamentarians voted 117-78 against the prime minister. Although he and his cabinet will now be forced to resign, they will nevertheless remain during the transition until a new government can be formed.

ANO is the parliament's largest party yet makes up a minority government due to the fact that it has been unable to find coalition partners. 

Following the 'German model'

Sitting Czech President Milos Zeman, who himself will face Jiri Drahos in a runoff election for the post on January 26, has said he is willing to give Babis another chance to convene a new cabinet.

Last week he cited what he called "the German model," in reference to that government's protracted coalition talks. Like many countries throughout Europe, it too, is having difficulty forming a coalition government due to the rise of far-right and anti-establishment parties at the expense of major traditional parties.  

Read more: Czech presidential race boils down to Milos Zeman or not

Czech President Zeman, an ally of Prime Minister Babis, will face Jiri Drahos in a run-off presidential election on January 26
Czech President Zeman, an ally of Prime Minister Babis, will face Jiri Drahos in a runoff election on January 26 Image: Getty Images/AFP/M. Cizek

No partners yet

At the time, Zeman, who is an ally of Babis, said: "I am confirming my commitment to create sufficient time for calm, business-like negotiations."

The eight other parties that make up the parliament have voiced serious concern about Babis' conflicts of interest as a businessman and politician. They have also been loathe to support him as long as corruption allegations against him remain unresolved.

Nonetheless, they may be motivated to change their posture as current polls show that ANO would likely gain seats in new elections.

Read more: Andrej Babis: Czech police seek to prosecute prospective PM for alleged fraud

Ready to answer critics

Babis has now called for his parliamentary immunity to be lifted so that he can answer corruption allegations. 

"We want to prove that these accusations are completely fabricated," told a parliamentary committee on Tuesday.

He emphatically stated that, "no one has stolen anything, there was no corruption." 

Investigations into dubious business dealings were underway before Babis won election in October, which renewed his previously revoked parliamentary immunity.

Shady subsidy deal

Babis has consistently denied allegations that he hid his ownership of a small farm and conference center to illegally receive €2 million ($2.4 million) in EU subsidies.

The second richest man in the Czech Republic, Babis is the owner of Agrofert, a food, farming, chemical and media conglomerate and the country's biggest employer. The subsidy was supposed to be earmarked for a small business.

The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) recently released a statement confirming that it had found "irregularities" in the subsidy. Babis contends the allegations have been fabricated by his political and business opponents.

js/kms (AFP, Reuters)  

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