Prime Minister Andrej Babiš faces a test this week, with his government set to face a no-confidence vote on Friday. The vote follows a scandal involving Mr. Babiš’s son, who says he was forcibly taken to Crimea. The PM attempted to smooth over the scandal by visiting his son in Switzerland at the weekend – but the whole affair may not die away any time soon.
Prime Minister Andrej Babiš discussed an affair surrounding his family in
a half-hour TV interview on Sunday night. A day after visiting his son,
Andrej Babiš Jr., in Switzerland, he told TV Nova that the latter remained
convinced that he was taken to Russia and later Crimea against his will.
The son made the claim in a Seznam Zprávy report broadcast last Monday, saying that his father wanted him to “disappear” at a time he was sought for questioning over a corruption case involving the PM. Mr. Babiš says his son is mentally ill and denies having him forcibly removed from the Czech Republic.
Andrej Babiš’s ex-wife also appeared on TV Nova on Sunday. She read a short statement criticising the journalists from Seznam Zprávy who spoke to her son and describing the situation as an “outrageous campaign”.
The prime minister, his son and other members of his family are facing criminal charges of wrongfully acquiring CZK 50 million in EU grants in connection with a hotel and conference complex known as Stork’s Nest near Prague.
Social Democratic Party leader Jan Hamáček has said the ideal solution to
the present crisis would be for the governing coalition to continue under a
different prime minister. Speaking in a debate on Czech Television,
Hamáček said the Social Democrats, who are in coalition with Babiš’s
ANO Party, are not happy with the prospect of a no-confidence vote in the
government. “We have to consider what a vote of no-confidence would bring
the country in view of the president’s intentions,” he said, pointing
out that either his party would be replaced in the coalition by the
populist SPD or the country would face a drawn-out constitutional crisis.
President Zeman said earlier this week that if the government should fall he would once again task Andrej Babis with forming a new government and noted that, in any case, the present government could continue to rule in demise for an unspecified period of time.
Prime Minister Andrej Babiš told Czech Radio that the people who called
for his demise had fallen for "a thousand-times-repeated lies about
his alleged role as an agent of the communist secret police, claims of EU
subsidy fraud and an abduction that never happened“. The prime minister
responded to Czech Radio’s question by SMS.
Andrej Babiš is expected to address the most recent suspicions that have emerged in an interview for commercial TV NOVA on Sunday evening.
Czechs on Saturday marked the 29th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution that triggered the fall of communism in 1989. Traditionally the anniversary was marked by public gatherings, concerts, marches and cultural events, but this year public discontent with the political situation brought a tense atmosphere to the celebrations.
Prime Minister Andrej Babiš on Friday met with European Commission
President Jean-Claude Junker in Brussels. They discussed the latest
developments around Brexit, the EU’s long-term budget priorities, such as
the rules governing subsidies from the EUs structural funds and proposed
changes in agricultural subsidies.
The Czech prime minister also unveiled a plan to build a village for 150 orphans in Syria including housing facilities, canteens, kindergartens and schools and gradually help them find surviving members of their extended families. He said he had already discussed the plan with the Czech ambassador to Syria Eva Filipi. The Czech Republic has come under fire for refusing to take in migrants, including orphaned children. The Czech head of government also met for talks with the President of the European Council Donald Tusk.
Investigators looking into the claims of Babiš Jr. that he had been
abducted to Crimea so that he could not testify in the case against his
father say that they have been trying to contact him without success at his
home in Switzerland.
Babiš Jr. sent an email to the journalists at Seznam.cz saying that he wanted to cooperate with the police in the investigation of his alleged abduction to Crimea and asked for this to be arranged by phone.
He also slammed his father for saying that due to the fact that he suffered from schizophrenia he was not able to testify and had to be under constant supervision, saying that this was a lie.
President Miloš Zeman said in an interview for commercial TV Barrandov on
Thursday night, that if Andrej Babiš’s government were to loose support
in a no-confidence vote due to be held in the lower house next week, he
would once again ask Mr. Babiš to form the next government.
He also noted that this cabinet could continue to function in demise for an unspecified period of time, by which time emotions would surely subside.
The president’s words elicited sharp criticism from opposition parties, who said such a move would be a blatant show of disrespect for the country’s Parliament.
Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, who has come under pressure to resign over
his sons allegations that he had been forcibly detained in Crimea to
prevent him testifying in the Storks Nest affair in which his father faces
charges of EU fraud, has said he will never step down of his own accord.
At a press briefing in Prague on Friday, the prime minister said the affair was an orchestrated slander campaign intended to drive him out of politics. He blamed the country’s public media for allegedly “spearheading the campaign“ and asked that they let investigators and the judiciary do their job.
The embattled prime minister also thanked President Zeman and Senator Jiří Čunek for standing up for him at this difficult hour.