Choice in the Czech Republic.
The legislative election in the European Union state Czech Republic (or just Czechia) with 10.7 million inhabitants will be held on Friday and Saturday (8 and 9 October). All the 200 members of the Chamber of Deputies will be elected, and the leader of the resulting government will become the Prime Minister.
What are the options for the voters?
Prime Minister Andrej Babis, 67, would like to be re-elected. He has been the founding leader of the party Ano since 2012. Babis entered politics in 2011, having turned his company into one of the Czech Republic's biggest private employers. He promised to use his experience to run the country like a successful business.
Has it been successful so far?
From an economic point of view, yes. The unemployment rate is just 1.9 per cent, the 5-year compound annual growth is 3.5 per cent, and the post-pandemic economic recovery is well underway.
Give me a broader look.
In general, the economy of the Czech Republic has developed pretty well in recent years and decades. The country is a prime example of economic growth after the fall of the Iron Curtain when the "Velvet Revolution" ended Czechoslovakia's Communist dictatorship in 1989, and the Czech Republic became independent from Slovakia in 1993. But Babis is the subject of ongoing conflict-of-interest and fraud investigations. His latest problem: the Pandora papers. The documents revealed recently by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists show that in 2009 Babis purchased a 22 million Dollars chateau near Cannes, France, with a cinema and two swimming pools, using shell companies that hid the identity of its new owner. It is not clear whether that was legal or not. However, politically this is a problem for Babis.
How big is the problem for Babis?
That is unclear. A poll published right before the publication of the Pandora papers suggested that Babis' Ano would emerge as the biggest party from the election, which will be held this Friday and Saturday, with 27 per cent of the vote.
Who else is standing for election?
Babis' populist Ano is currently leading a fragile minority coalition government with the Social Democrats but relies on the support of the Communist Party. The allegations during his tenure have narrowed Babis' political options. Five opposition parties with policies closer to the European Union's mainstream have put aside their differences to create two coalitions to oust the eurosceptic prime minister from power. Each coalition is predicted to win about 20 per cent of the vote, and both have ruled out a coalition with Babis. His only chance of forming a government could be a deal with the far-right SPD and other smaller parties, such as the Communists. That, in turn, could leave Babis isolated in Europe.
What do the parties stand for?
Despite their differences on many issues, including climate change, same-sex marriage, and the euro's adoption, the five opposition parties all support EU and NATO membership. The major topic of Babis' campaign is migration. He has promised voters that not a single illegal migrant would be allowed to enter the Czech Republic. He has also pledged to protect the Czechs from the European Union, which he claims wants to destroy the country's sovereignty. Tomas Lebeda, a political scientist at Palacky University, said the news agency AP: "Babis is trying to divide the society, to create an atmosphere of fear for some of their safety and present himself as the only one to protect them. It's a classic strategy used by most populists, by Donald Trump and by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban."
Seems it could become a complicated government formation.