ANO leader Andrej Babiš, who looks set to be the country’s next prime minister, has come under scrutiny by the foreign media, where he is often described as a populist leader and the Czech Donald Trump. In a live interview for CNN on Wednesday Babiš rejected both labels.
Who is Andrej Babiš and where is he likely to lead the Czech Republic in the years to come? Those are questions that the foreign media are asking in the wake of the Czech general elections which Babiš won hands down. Although he is ostracized by the traditional parties Babiš is fighting to make good on his election victory by putting together a minority government and drumming up support for it where he can. The only two parties which have not ruled out supporting him, under certain conditions, are the Communists and possibly the SPD, an anti-migrant, anti-EU party.
Asked by CNN whether there was a danger the Czech Republic could take an anti-liberal course, Babiš said his performance in the outgoing government spoke for itself.
"What is our strategy in politics? Common sense and problem solving. I am pragmatic and we have already succeeded in four elections. I was finance minister in the Czech government and we had the second-best public finances in Europe. I decreased the debt, I collected much more in taxes, ten billion euros more in taxes, so we were quite successful and as far as the national debt and budget is concerned we are one of the most successful countries in Europe."
On the subject of migration – and the fact that the Czech Republic has been reluctant to take in migrants under the EC's mandatory distribution mechanism Babiš said the Czech Republic was asking no more than what was an accepted practice elsewhere.
"I criticize illegal migration. And look at the history of the United States, let us talk about Ellis Island, let us talk about green cards. We have to adopt the same migration model like you have in the US, or Canada or Australia. We have to solve the migration crisis outside of Europe. We have to solve it in Syria, in Libya, in countries where these people were born. We should help them there and they should stay in their homes because it is not possible for Europe to be the only continent to receive hundreds of thousands of illegal migrants."
Despite the country’s steady economic growth and record low unemployment the outgoing government has shown no inclination to set a time frame for euro adoption and Babiš himself has noted on several occasions that there is no sense in rushing to adopt the euro while the crown is more advantageous. In the interview for CNN Babiš rejected the idea that he is anti-EU, but stressed that reforms are essential and change is slow in coming.
"Europe is a fantastic project. We have peace, but we have to fight for the safety of Europe and we have to fight for the European freedoms –free circulation of people, goods, services and capital. So I am pro-European but we have to solve these problems and we are always waiting for something."