Eurosceptic ‘’Czech Trump’’ Wins Landslide Electoral Victory

Billionaire Czech businessman, Andrej Babiš, has led his populist and Eurosceptic ANO party to victory in this weekend’s Czech legislative elections. The substantial gains for right wing parties come only one week after similar results in neighboring Austria.

 

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A ballot box rejection of the EU appears to be continuing in Central Europe, with Czech voters electing a self-made billionaire strongly critical of ‘’EU meddling’’ and opposed to the country’s adoption of the single European currency.

With 99.98% of the votes counted, Babiš’ populist ANO party (‘Yes’ in Czech) had scored 29.72% of the vote, almost 20% higher than the next nearest party and taking first place across all regions of the country.

Several anti-establishment parties scored higher than expected, including the anti-Brussels and anti-migrant, Freedom and Direct Democracy party, which received 10.67% of the vote. The anti-establishment left-leaning Pirate Party will also enter the Prague parliament for the first time, having garnered 10.75% of the vote.

Babiš, who made his estimated $4.1 billion fortune in agro-chemicals and food production served as Finance Minister in the outgoing coalition government yet is still viewed by many Czechs as a straight-talking outsider, prepared to voice public sentiment on topics ranging from EU migrant quotas to Czech membership of the euro.

“We don’t want the Euro here. Everybody knows it’s bankrupt. It’s about our sovereignty. I want the Czech koruna, and an independent central bank. I don’t want another issue that Brussels would be meddling with’’, Babiš told Bloomberg in June.

Whilst supportive of the Central European nation’s membership of the EU, Babiš has echoed sentiments expressed by Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán, particularly on EU migrant policy and on forced migrant resettlements dictated by Brussels.

“If there will be more Muslims than Belgians in Brussels, that’s their problem. I don’t want that here. They won’t be telling us who should live here’’, the 63-year-old Slovakian-born tycoon told Bloomberg, echoing a viewpoint largely unspoken amongst Western European counterparts.

Babiš has called for the securing of Europe’s external borders and been quoted as saying that the Czech Republic ‘’did not want to end up like Germany’’ – a widespread view amongst ordinary Czechs.

The center-left Social Democrats, formerly the largest party in the national parliament, saw their support collapse from 20.5% to 7.3%, with the Communist Party also taking a battering, losing half their support.

As expected, the victory was not universally welcomed among the EU establishment. Former Belgian Prime Minister, Guy Verhofstadt, who cites one of his political achievements as legalizing euthanasia, congratulated Babiš whilst expressing concern over what he called an ‘’increased support for eurosceptic and xenophobe forces’’ in the country.

Meanwhile, Czech President Miloš Zeman, who last week ruffled EU feathers by calling for a Second Amendment-style right to bear arms, says he will meet with Babiš, Monday, at his residence near Prague to discuss the formation of a new government.

Responding to international media coverage of Mr. Babiš, the Czech President stated he was not a populist but rather a pragmatist, and that he would charge him with forming a new government to lead the country’s 10.6 million citizens.

 

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Andrej Babiš with wife, Monika, in 2016.

 

Photo Credits: Michal Cizek/AFP/Getty Images (above), REUTERS/David W Cerny (top)

 

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