The latest opinion poll published ahead of the Czech parliamentary elections next weekend showed that there is likely to be a deadlock in the distribution of seats in the Chamber of Deputies.
Despite the victory of the ANO party of populist Prime Minister Andrej Babis with 27.3%, it would struggle to find suitable coalition partners, while the two opposition coalitions (Pirates / STAN and SPOLU) would not be able to form a majority, according to the poll conducted by the agency STEM for CNN Prima News published on October 3.
Babis’ ANO would win 65 seats, followed by the center-right coalition SPOLU (Civic Democrats, Christian Democrats and TOP09) with 21.4% (49 seats), the coalition of Pirates and STAN (Mayors and Independents) with 17 , 4% (39 seats). seats), and the far-right SPD of Tomio Okamura with 12.3% (27 seats).
The Communists, with 6.5% (12 seats) and the Prisaha (Oath) party of former policeman Robert Slachta with 5.7% (8 seats) would also go to the Chamber of Deputies beyond the threshold of 5 %. The junior ruling party, the Social Democrats, with 4.4%, would not win any seats in the lower house.
The new government must have a majority of 101 seats in parliament. SPOLU and Pirates / STAN would only have 88 seats and would not have any potential partner to give them the majority.
The SPOLU and Pirates / STAN coalitions claimed that they would never create a government with ANO, so Babis would have to approach two of the SPDs, the Communists or Oath to at least negotiate their tacit support. Such as government with extremist parties would be extremely controversial, both nationally and internationally.
The possibility of such an impasse has led some commentators to predict an agreement between Babis and some of the SPOLU coalition parties, although both have publicly rejected it.
A deadlock could also lead President Milos Zeman to create his own government and allow him to rule without a vote of confidence for as long as possible.
Compared to the STEM survey carried out in early September, Babis’ NOA fell by 32.4%. STEM director Martin Buchtik explained that ANO’s drop of around five percentage points does not mean the movement has lost its voters since the last poll. “In fact, they didn’t go anywhere, they stayed with the ANO. Just the undecided voters went to other parties,” he explained.
“The STEM model shows the situation at the end of September, about 10 days before the election. Yet one in seven voters is hesitant to know which party – or if so – to vote for. In the home stretch of a political party’s campaign, they aim not only to convince hesitant voters, but to some extent to reduce the willingness of potential voters from rival parties to participate in the elections, ”the agency commented. .
“The parties that will decide will be those that are around the 5% threshold. It’s an open game, you can’t even say a week before the elections. This is where these elections are quite exceptional,” added Buchtik.
On October 3, CNN Prima held a pre-election debate “Czech Republic seeks prime minister” in which viewers could vote for their prime minister, among the leaders of the four best voting parties: PM Andrej Babis (ANO), Ivan Bartos (Pirates / STAN), Petr Fiala (SPOLU) and Tomio Okamura (SPD).
The discussion opened with a question on the latest discoveries published on October 3 by the website of the Czech partner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, investigace.cz, as part of the new global Pandora Papers project, which revealed that Babis had sent nearly CZK 400 million through its companies offshore to buy real estate on the French Riviera, including Château Bigaud, while keeping the secret of its ownership.
The disclosure is a serious embarrassment for the Prime Minister, who claimed to be a champion in the fight against corruption, pointing out that his companies pay taxes in the Czech Republic, unlike those owned by other oligarchs, and who, within government cracked down on small business tax evasion.
“In November 2009, Babis injected $ 22 million into his BVI company, Blakey Finance, according to email leaks between Babis’ Panamanian and French lawyers. The funds were then transferred to his company DC, which forwarded them to its Monegasque subsidiary, SCP Bigaud ”, indicates the ICIJ report.
According to the documents, this acquisition concerned 16 properties in Mougins ー including Château Bigaud. However, asset declaration forms show that the ownership of the castle and the companies involved in its ownership are absent from the documents filed by the Czech Prime Minister, as required by Czech law.
“It is not a level playing field when all citizens are required to pay taxes and obey the rules of financial transparency, and there are people who can opt out,” said economist Petr Jansky.
“This case dates from 2009, the timing is interesting, two hours before this debate. The man who went bankrupt OKD [mining company], whoever has this anti-Babis newspaper system, that’s his job, “Babis said, referring to Zdenek Bakala, the owner of the Economia publishing house.
“I was waiting to see what they were going to shoot at me just before the elections to harm me and influence the Czech elections. This time with a 12 year old case. Before entering politics. There is no instance where they could have shot me while I was in politics, “Babis said, adding that it is the same before every election,” they bring to mind something of the distant past for that it turns out that nothing happened. ”.
Opposition leaders responded during the live debate that the case should be investigated. “There are elements of corruption … People are paying expensive mortgages, while the prime minister has made other arrangements,” said Ivan Bartos, leader of the Pirates.
“It’s a huge international scandal … [The PM] must say if he used untaxed money. The Prime Minister fought against tax havens and then used them [to his benefit], Fiala pointed out.
Investigace.cz said that in France Babis will have to prove the origin of the money spent on the purchase of real estate, while in the United States it has also been investigated. for suspected money laundering.
“The Czech police can also start investigating the case if they discover reasonable suspicions of money laundering. Since the loan was not due until 2019, the case is not time-barred,” added Investigace.cz.
According to Babis, the amount spent on the acquisition was properly taxed in Czechia and therefore there is no money laundering, claiming that he can provide an audit performed by EY and PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Other topics covered in CNN Prima’s pre-election debate were Czech inflation being at its highest level since 2008, the EU’s green deal, immigration, vaccination, coronavirus restrictions and a potential referendum on leaving the EU.
Based on the highest number of votes received from CNN Prima viewers, the second round of the CNN Prime pre-election debate was led by Andrej Babis (with 34.4% of the vote) and Petr Fiala (with 35.4%) who at the end of the discussion said that if they won the election they would never form a government together.