Bill that could hurt Babiš sparks coalition spat
The Christian Democrats are planning to vote for a conflict of interest bill later this week and the Social Democrats are considering doing likewise. But ANO chief Andrej Babiš warns that if they do back the amendment – which could hit his business interests hard – it may put the future of the three-party alliance in doubt.
Under the proposal, people with large stakes in companies would be barred from becoming ministers, while firms more than 10-percent owned by cabinet members would not be allowed to enter public tenders.
This would be particularly problematic for ANO chief and finance minister Andrej Babiš, who owns the huge Agrofert group.
“This is completely normal in civilised countries. I don’t see why the minister of agriculture had to cease his business activities because he was self-employed, while the second- or third-richest person in the country can just carry on. Just like Mr. Valenta and many others.”
Mr. Valenta is Ivo Valenta, a senator who owns a large betting company, while the agriculture minister is Marian Jurečka, Mr. Bělobrádek’s party colleague.
For his part, Mr. Babiš says coalition support for legislation evidently targeted at him would raise questions over the future of the alliance. And, he asks, why now?
But Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka of the Social Democrats says things have changed since the coalition deal was signed over two years ago.
“To be frank, the number of billionaires entering politics is growing. It’s not just Andrej Babiš. There’s also Mr. Valenta. Others could come along after the next elections. I think it’s important that we have clear, transparent rules, that there is a clear division between politics and business and that it isn’t possible to mix political, business and media interests.”
It comes as the Social Democrats launched billboards declaring “the state is not a firm”– a reference to the “management” rhetoric that helped ANO’s rise to become the second biggest party in the last elections.
The posters are part of campaigning for regional and Senate elections later this year and with ANO and the Social Democrats the front runners in the opinion polls, we may well see more coalition clashes in the not so distant future.