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Explained: Lady Babis’s defeat in the Czech Republic and what it means for populist leaders in Europe

Just days before the historic parliamentary election in the Czech Republic, the name of the country’s populist billionaire Prime Minister Lady Babis surfaced globally. Pandora Letter investigation. The papers unveiled a complex offshore structure that Babies used to buy a £13 million mansion in France. While the prime minister denied allegations of corruption, the scandal contributed to his political undoing, his centrist ANO (Yes) party lost the parliamentary election on Saturday.

Two days after the election, result indicated A centre-right coalition of parties defeated the ANO party by the narrowest margin. Babis, who has been dubbed by some as ‘Czech Trump’ for his anti-immigrant stance and business empire, insisted that his party had had “great results”, noting that “with only one program against us”. There were five teams together – to take down Babis.

Political analysts say the results of the Czech election also indicate that the tide may be turning against a string of populist leaders such as Babis, who have risen for decades in Central and Eastern Europe. A new government would also lead to strained relations with populist parties in countries such as Hungary and Poland, which have for years been criticized for failing to uphold democratic values.

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Significantly, this is the first time since the end of World War II that members of the Communist Party’s successor will not be represented in the Czech parliament.

But first of all, who is Andrej Babis?

The billionaire businessman has been at the fore of the populist wave sweeping Central Europe since 2015. While his ANO (Union of Dissatisfied Citizens) has been part of the ruling coalition government since 2013, Babis was first elected prime minister in 2017. Fighting immigration and hostility towards the European Union were the two central tenets of his campaign.

Lady Babis, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic and leader of the centrist ANO (YES) movement, with his wife Monica arrives at his election headquarters in Prague, Czech Republic, Saturday, October 9, 2021. (AP)

Ironically, however, Babis’s firm Agrofert, an agro-chemical conglomerate, received significant support from EU funding. In 2019, the European Commission alleged that Babis was in conflict of interest because of his business empire, which was held in a trust fund. One of the richest business tycoons in the Czech Republic, he placed the business in a trust in 2017 when he was finance minister, to remain in office, as mandated by Czech law.

In his re-election campaign, Babis sought to appeal to older voters, pledging to raise pensions and public sector wages, while continuing to criticize his anti-immigration rhetoric and the European Union.

He has been criticized by his detractors for his policies as well as raising public debt for some of his business deals.

What happened in the Czech parliamentary elections?

Babis’s party was defeated by the liberal-conservative three-party Together coalition, which won 27.8 percent of the vote compared to Babis’ 27.1 percent vote share. In another blow to populists led by Babis, the Pirate Party’s centre-left liberal coalition and Stan, which includes a slew of mayors, finished third, receiving 15.6 percent of the vote.

Five opposition parties banded together to oust the Eurosceptic prime minister from power. Their policies differ markedly from those of Babis, and align more comfortably with EU policies.

Supporters of center-right Spol (Together) coalition leader Petr Fiala react to the election results in Prague, Czech Republic, Saturday, October 9, 2021. (AP)

“Two democratic coalitions have won a majority and they have a chance to form a majority government,” said Together’s leader Petr Fiala. The victorious alliance won 71 seats, while its partner got 37, giving it a comfortable majority of 108 seats.

But what was the reason for the defeat of Babis?

It is not entirely clear what caused the defeat of Babis. Some say his fearful campaign against immigration and the European Union could have the opposite effect. Others believe it was a decision to align himself with the far-right Prime Minister of Hungary, Viktor Orbán, and even campaigned in his constituency of Ustí nad Labem before the election. took them along for

His latest appearance in the Pandora Papers only made matters worse. But Babis denied doing “anything wrong or illegal”, alleging that the allegations were merely an attempt to influence this week’s election results.

Residents vote at a polling station during the parliamentary election in Prague, Czech Republic, Friday, October 8, 2021. (AP)

Apart from this, some analysts say that this time more young voters are coming to vote. A generational divide exists among Czech voters, with older voters leaning toward the ruling coalition, while younger voters looking for change are more likely to vote for the opposition.

If Zeman recovers and is able to broker government talks, it is likely that he and Babis will move forward with talks in hopes of splitting the coalition faction.

What will happen next?

Babis’ only shot at the remaining prime minister fell short this week, when his close aide President Milos Zeman taken to hospital, Seriously ill. The president plays a central role in nominating any future prime minister. Before a bout of ill health, Zaman had vowed to give Babis a chance to form the government once again if his party wins the most seats.

But with the opposition parties forming a clear majority together, it is nearly impossible for Babis and his ANO party to remain in power.

The ANO party indicated on Tuesday that it was ready to go to the opposition. “The situation is complicated by the health of President Milos Zeman, an ally of ANO Prime Minister Lady Babis, who appoints governments but was taken into intensive care over the weekend. His condition is stable, the hospital said, but no further details Has not been given on his diagnosis or expected stay,” Babis said, according to Reuters.

What could this mean for other European populist leaders?

Analysts say Babis’ decision to include Viktor Orban for his campaign appears to strengthen support for opposition parties. People feared that this indicated Babi’s hopes of molding Orbán’s post-Hungarian Czech Republic.

Recent election results threaten the “liberal democracy” Orban has been single-mindedly campaigning for for years, while his Fidesz party has consistently stripped democratic values ​​and left a significant section of the media and judiciary. is controlled. Hungary’s own opposition, which includes six parties from the left, liberals and the former far right, is coming together to challenge Orbán next year.

The Czech Republic is not alone. The populist wave across Europe, which gained momentum after Donald Trump’s election victory in 2016, appears to be waning. According to a New York Times report, this is largely attributable to the growing unity among opposition parties as well as the crisis of trust among nationalists following Trump’s defeat.

In Slovenia, Orban’s close ally, Prime Minister Janez Jana, who shares many of his anti-liberal views, has also seen his party’s approval ratings slip. Meanwhile, in Slovakia about 18 months ago, Robert Fico, who had led the country for a decade, was replaced by a coalition of centrist and right-wing parties.

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