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CZECHIA: Babis and a lackluster campaign
With only 18 days to the general elections, the campaign has not brought any significant policy debate or any other hot topic but one: Andrej Babis. An agro-industrialist billionaire, influential media owner and former Minister of Finance is facing multiple controversies and conflicts of interest. Apart from allegations about the potential influence of his newspapers for attacking his political rivals or tax fraud accusations, Andrej Babis is facing an even more severe threat. After stripping him and his key ally, ANO’s Chief Whip Jaroslav Faltynek, of their MP immunity, the Czech police are ready to persecute them for an alleged abuse of EU subsidy for his summer and conference complex. Despite all threats and allegations, the founder and leader of protest and populist ANO Movement is still the front-runner to become the next Prime Minister of the Czech Republic. Slovak-born Babis is leading the polls with around 28% of support far ahead of the Social Democrats, the main rival before the general elections and at the same time, the current governmental ally.
Considering the progressive and professional self-promotion of the ANO Movement, other political parties struggle to compete with Babis. The Movement sets the majority of policy topics including Euroscepticism such as the rejection of euro or strict opposition to the EU’s immigration policy. The Social Democrats attempt to appeal to potential voters with the topic of low salaries and progressive taxation, whereas the low support for the right-wing opposition (ODS, TOP09) is far beyond their expectations. Last but not least, the recent polls predict that record-high number of 8 political parties might overcome the required 5% threshold for entering the Parliament, including the nationalistic Freedom, Direct Democracy (SPD) or the Pirates, popular among undecided or first-time voters.