Czech Legislative Elections: Billionaire to be Prime Minister

Andrej Babiš, founder and leader of the right-wing populist ANO (“yes”) party and media tycoon, could claim most votes at the legislative elections in Czech Republic last Friday and Saturday. The party scored around 30 % at a turnout of about 61% which confirms the European trend in moving from traditional parties and a supporting considerable shift to the Right. Elections took place over two days, allowing ca. eight million people to leave their votes at the ballots.

Babiš made his mark in Czech politics over the last years by gaining popularity amongst all groups of Czech society. In the likely event of being appointed Prime Minister, he will be the European Union’s first Head of Government going through a law suit. According to the German Süddeutsche Zeitung he is under suspicion of fraud. The former spy of the Czech Communist secret service made his way into politics only four years ago.

The election outcome is arguably relevant for the EU’s future. Compared to other Central European countries, Czech Republic is well off. The unemployment rate is below three percent on average, urban centers like Prague and Brno are wealthy and it is  one of the safest countries in the world. However, Babiš and ANO successfully applied a causality between (illegal) immigrants, Islam and terrorism as an argument to push for even more restrictive measures than the current social democratic government represents on an EU-level.

This lasting phenomenon of xenophobic jargon which finds acceptance among voters is is partly explained by looking at post-Soviet history of most Central and Eastern European countries. Most of them have not experienced a high influx of migration, let alone migration with significantly different cultural and religious background.

After the Velvet Revolution in 1989, Czech Republic saw many Euro-sceptic presidents like Milos Zemann and Vaclav Klaus. Even after the country’s accession to the EU in 2004, Euroscepticism was constantly fueled by conspiracy around politics in Brussels. Turnout at 2014 European Parliament elections of less than 10% displayed the public’s skeptical perception on the country’s membership of the EU as a bearable necessity rather than being affiliated with Russia.

Significant for the EU will be the announced anti-European course Babiš. This includes continuation of the country’s strict policies against migration. The government has permitted a considerably small number of immigrants Czech Republic. The government has refused to serve as a supporting figure after the influx of refugees in 2015. Along with Poland and Hungary, the country is one of the strongest opponents of granting asylum to immigrants, especially to those with Muslim background.

According to the BBC, Babiš’ political agenda and charisma shows a mixture of Silvio Berlusconi and Donald Trump which leaves the future of European democracy in an uncertain state.


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