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CZECHIA: Andrej Babis’ government and the vote of confidence

Amid the 25th anniversary of a peaceful separation of Czechoslovakia into two independent countries, the first month of 2018 will be a rollercoaster for Czech politics. On January 9, the Immunity Committee will decide whether Prime Minister Andrej Babis and Chief whip of ANO movement Jaroslav Faltynek should be released for police prosecution. The reason is the infamous scandal concerning Capi hnizdo (Stork’s Nest), once a summer complex that has become Babis’ long-lasting thorn in his side. Additionally, the EU Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) has closed the investigation on Capi hnizdo and sent the report to Czech authorities including information whether Babis committed a crime by defrauding EUR 2 million EU subsidy for Capi hnizdo. However, the Ministry of Finance controlled by ANO does not plan to make the report public. Babis’ investigation is a fundamental obstacle for other political parties to start coalition negotiations, especially for CSSD and KDU-CSL. Subsequently, only a day after the vote on stripping two top ANO politicians of their immunity, the Chamber of Deputies will meet for the highly awaited event – the confidence vote of the new government. So far, Babis’ minority government is expected to lose the confidence vote because all political parties except the Communists (KSCM) declined any support.

Meanwhile, the minority government has already started a significant ‘restructuralization’ process of state institutions abolishing dozens of departments and civil servant posts mainly connected to former governmental partners KDU-CSL and CSSD. Babis dismisses the allegations that the changes are politically motivated purges by defending his plan as a way how to speed up the legislative process and lower the level of administration. The shuffle in the public administration could be foreseen as a strategy how to convince former governmental allies CSSD and KDU-CSL to join Babis for the second attempt of forming a coalition in February.