Czech Billionaire Faces Growing Resistance in Coalition Talks
(Bloomberg) -- Billionaire Andrej Babis is facing increasing obstacles in his efforts to create a new Czech government after a potential partner intensified demands for joining his coalition and showed signs of internal dissent to any tie-up.
Six months after winning elections, Babis is struggling to secure enough support for confirmation in parliament to transition from the role of caretaker prime minister. With most mainstream parties refusing to cooperate with Babis because of his fraud investigation, he was forced to resume talks with the Social Democrats when his ANO party objected to ruling with tacit support from a group seeking an exit from the European Union.
The Social Democrats have set a series of new conditions for the talks, whose next round is scheduled for Wednesday evening in Prague. The demands include removing the anti-Muslim SPD party’s officials from leadership posts in parliament, where they were installed with the help of ANO votes. The potential alliance is also causing a split inside the leftist party as its senators said they will appeal to members to reject any coalition agreement in an internal vote.
In an opinion column published on Wednesday, Social Democrat Chairman Jan Hamacek rejected calls from ANO to wrap up the talks quickly and said all of his party’s conditions must be met to reach an agreement. Still, in response to criticism of a potential coalition deal, Hamacek said on Twitter that he doesn’t “understand such a strong position from the senators in the middle of government talks.”
Babis’s last-moment pullback from ruling with the extremist party helped avoid tensions with other leaders in the EU at a time when the bloc is already at loggerheads with Poland and Hungary over the rule of law. Since Babis won the October ballot with anti-immigrant rhetoric and by railing against meddling from Brussels, the Czech billionaire has sought to build ties to western governments with assurances that he’s a pro-European leader.
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