The former leading Czech government party, the Social Democrats, faces a crunch meeting over the weekend to choose a new leadership and try and patch the party up after disastrous election results last October. Key issues will be whether to go into government with ANO’s Andrej Babiš and what approach to take with the recently re-elected Czech president.
ANO’s first deputy chairman, Jaroslav Faltýnek, says the party will
first discuss forming a new government with their partners in the outgoing
Czech government, the Social Democrats and the Christian Democrats. But Mr.
Faltýnek said ANO would also sit down with all the other parties that had
made it into the Chamber of Deputies. He said ANO chief Andrej Babiš
should become prime minister in the next government.
Two of Mr. Faltýnek’s party colleagues, cabinet members Karla Šlechtová and Dan Ťok, say they would prefer to avoid entering government again with the Christian Democrats.
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has called on Finance Minister and ANO Party leader Andrej Babiš to provide a satisfactory explanation about his financial dealings by the end of April. Speaking at a press conference on Thursday afternoon, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said Mr Babiš owed the public and the government answers to a number of questions, adding that threatens the credibility of the whole government. The criticism focuses on his use of so-called one crown bonds as an alleged tax dodge and other explanations about the financing and accounts of the Agrofert group. Mr Babiš said he was ready to answer the questions by Friday.
A Parliamentary committee set up to investigate a controversial reorganization of the police force in 2016 has concluded that the affected changes were not made in view of interfering with ongoing investigations or removing the former head of the national squad for fighting organized crime Robert Šlachta from his post. The head of the committee, Pavel Blažek, told the lower house on Thursday that the interior minister and police president were not obliged by law to consult an overhaul of the police force with state attorneys, but he criticized the fact that the reform had been prepared in haste and poorly communicated. The investigation likewise failed to confirm allegations of a serious information leak from the ranks of the police and found no evidence of the reform having been driven by lobbyist of political interests. The investigation concerned the merger of two elite crime fighting units into a National Centre against Organized Crime.
ANO deputy head Jaroslav Faltýnek has said that if Parliament should approve a conflict of interest law which would restrict the business activities of cabinet ministers the ANO party would file a complaint with the Constitutional Court. Mr. Faltýnek said such a legislation would violate the right to property ownership. The proposed bill would prevent people with large stakes in companies from becoming ministers, while firms more than 10-percent owned by cabinet members would not be allowed to enter public tenders. The bill is widely seen as targeting ANO leader, billionaire businessman and Finance Minister Andrej Babiš whose powerful conglomerate Agrofert involves 200 companies as well as several media outlets. Both of ANO’s coalition partners –the Social Democrats and Christian Democrats – say they will support the bill, which has caused friction in the ruling coalition.
ANO leader and finance minister Andrej Babiš has accused the other two parties in the Czech government, the Social Democrats and the Christian Democrats, of breaching the coalition agreement, Czech Television reported. Mr. Babiš says ANO’s coalition partners have repeatedly voted together to defeat his party on the division of next year’s budget. He said the minister of finance had never previously been outvoted on such matters. Social Democrat Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka called on Mr. Babiš to discuss the budget patiently with his ministerial colleagues.
The Christian Democrats are planning to vote for a conflict of interest bill later this week and the Social Democrats are considering doing likewise. But ANO chief Andrej Babiš warns that if they do back the amendment – which could hit his business interests hard – it may put the future of the three-party alliance in doubt.
A new coalition governing Prague City Hall could take shape around the TOP 09 party and push the former ruling ANO party and Social Democrats into opposition. Representatives of five political parties, including TOP 09, the three-way coalition, Pirates, and independents, with the support of the Civic Democrats, outlined their goal to have a new coalition in place by January. That formation could count on 35 votes in the 65-seat council chamber. The existing coalition led by ANO collapsed in November after prolonged strains.
Prague’s dominant political parties are putting out feelers over the creation of new alliances which could fill the gap after the collapse of the ANO-led coalition which governed Prague City Hall. Leading member of the centre-right TOP 09 party, Jiří Novotný, said Wednesday night that it would try to put together a coalition without ANO. ANO leader Andrej Babiš performed a U-turn Wednesday when he said that ANO would be prepared to do a deal with TOP 09.