ANO about turn opens door to Social Democrat coalition

Andrej Babiš, photo: CTK

The leadership of the ANO party have announced that they will try to renew government negotiations with the Social Democrats. The decision is the latest turn in the nearly six-month saga to form a government following October elections which ANO won convincingly but fell short of an overall majority.

Andrej Babiš, photo: CTK
Members of the party’s leadership said after Thursday night’s meeting they wanted fresh talks, adding that ANO leader and acting Prime Minister Andrej Babiš would quickly get in contact with his counterpart Jan Hamáček. This is what Richard Brabec, deputy head of ANO, said after the meeting:

“I think our negotiating team did all we could, but the leadership decided there is still room for further negotiations. This is the party’s top authority, they told us to do this and we will of course obey their wishes.”

An ANO coalition with the Social Democrats would have 93 votes in the 200-seat lower house of parliament and would require support from another party. Jaroslav Faltýnek, the head of the ANO parliamentary grouping, has not specified which party will be approached:

“We will be looking for other parties in the lower house that would support this project. We were told by the leadership to negotiate further with the Social Democrats and look for further support for the government and its programme, which is more or less ready today.”

Jan Hamáček, photo: CTK
Both parties have said earlier that the Communist Party was acceptable if the communists agreed to the government’s pro-European course.

Talks between ANO and the Social Democratic Party collapsed last week over the Cabinet seats demanded by the Social Democrats to curb possible conflicts of interest by billionaire businessman Babiš and to make sure he had no influence over his ongoing EU fraud investigation.

The Social Democrats targeted top posts in the ministries of finance and interior arguing that these could help them keep check on Babiš if he remained prime minister.

Social Democrat party leader Jan Hamáček said the Social Democrats were always open to serious negotiation for the benefit of the country in reaction to the ANO about turn. Deputy head of the Social Democrats Martin Netolický has made it clear the party’s demands have not changed over the last week:

“Nothing has changed in this respect, of course. We came up with these demands at our party congress in February. If ANO feels like the situation is getting serious, they have to come with new suggestions. So we are waiting for what kind of offer they will come up with.”

Miloš Zeman, photo: Khalil Baalbaki
ANO won 78 seats in the lower house but have so far failed to seal majority support largely because other parties have shied away from going into a government with a prime minister facing criminal prosecution.

Earlier this week, president Miloš Zeman recommended Andrej Babiš approach the communist party and Tomio Okamura’s Freedom and Direct Democracy Party to create a government. However, some ANO members have said they could not stomach a deal involving the anti-European and anti-migrant party.