Fertiliser billionaire emerges as surprise force in snap Czech poll
Anti-corruption ‘Yes’ party led by Andrej Babis appeals to voters tired of graft and greed
Friday 25 October 2013
A billionaire who made his fortune from food and fertiliser has emerged as a surprise force in snap general elections in the Czech Republic, as voters weary of political graft and greed rally to his strident anti-corruption and anti-establishment message.
Andrej Babis went into the vote, which began yesterday and continues today, with his Ano party fighting the Communists for second place. Opinion polls gave them around 16 per cent of the vote each, and predict that the first-placed Social Democrats could fall short of getting enough votes to form an absolute majority. Ano, which means “Yes” in Czech, could therefore have a say in the make-up of a possible coalition government.
However, some analysts say Ano’s popularity – which has surged since its formation two years ago – is more likely inadvertently to help the Communists grab a share of national power for the first time since the 1989 revolution.
Mr Babis’s strident criticism of the political elite has won him few friends in the main parties. Critics call Mr Babis a populist with no real programme, and have refused to co-operate with him. “This dynamic plays straight into the hands of the Communist Party, as they increasingly look like the most reliable partner for the Social Democrats,” Otilia Dhand, an analyst at Teneo Intelligence, a London-based political consultancy, told Bloomberg.
Mr Babis, a member of the Communist Party before 1989, who made his fortune after its demise, has dismissed the idea of his party playing a role in a possible Communist comeback as “speculation”. He insists Ano offers a new choice for voters disenchanted and frustrated with the politicians who have governed for the past 20 years.
“It’s normal for politicians to forget their voters and their promises,” he told The Independent. “This election finishes on Saturday, Monday we have a day off so by Tuesday they will have forgotten everything.
“I created from nothing one of the biggest companies in the Czech Republic,” he continued. “I have made a life based on a handshake and trust. You can’t lie twice in business because if you lie once you can’t do it again: nobody will believe you. But in politics here it’s normal. They are lying and promising but never deliver on anything. They only have one programme and that is to get power and money.”
The snap elections were called after the country’s centre-right government collapsed in June, owing to a lurid spying, sex and corruption scandal that at one point threatened to engulf Petr Necas, then prime minister.
To add to the country’s woes, a recent survey by corruption watchdog Transparency International found the Czech Republic more corrupt than Rwanda.
“The country is going in the wrong way and something has to be done about it,” said the 59-year-old Mr Babis. “Two years ago I never dreamt about going into politics. I’m not a politician, but I was paying a lot of taxes and realised that people were not happy. I realised that something had to happen.”
However, Mr Babis has not managed entirely to avoid scandal himself. The press in his native Slovakia claimed to have found evidence indicating he collaborated with the StB, the communist-era Czechoslovak secret police, by spying on a colleague. “This is rubbish,” Mr Babis said.
New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain
Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy
New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site this morning
Review: Mike Leigh's biopic is a rambling, rich character study
- 1 'Nasa Confirms Six Days of Darkness in December': No, they don't - it's a hoax
- 3 Topshop at centre of row over body image as 'shocking' skinny mannequin photo goes viral
- 4 If you think Russell Brand’s new book is confused, you should read what his critics have to say about it
- 5 Kentucky gang rape: 15-year-old boy left in critical condition after sexual attack by group at party
'Nasa Confirms Six Days of Darkness in December': No, they don't - it's a hoax
Canadian actor punched in face after 'Islamophobia' experiment goes wrong in wake of Ottawa shooting
Halloween 2014: From the Screaming Man of Pluckley to the 'White Lady' of the Tower of London - Britain's 20 most haunted places
Russian politician says Apple CEO Tim Cook should be 'banned' from country after coming out as gay
Kentucky gang rape: 15-year-old boy left in critical condition after sexual attack by group at party
Pope Francis declares evolution and Big Bang theory are real and God is not 'a magician with a magic wand'
Huge surge in Ukip support after EU funding row, according to new poll
Ukip ‘exploiting grooming scandal’ to secure party’s first police chief
Nigel Farage: 'There’s nothing wrong with white people blacking up'
Maureen Lipman says 'she can't vote Labour while Ed Miliband is leader'
Muslims, immigration and teenage pregnancy: British people are ignorant about almost everything
£18000 - £27000 per annum + Commission: SThree: The SThree group is a world le...
£50 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you an SEN Learning Supp...
£21000 - £31000 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: KS2 Teachers - Chelm...
£21500 - £31500 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Would you like to work...