Czech president advises talks with anti-EU, anti-immigrant SPD as government solution

Andrej Babiš, photo: CTK

The Czech president has pointed ANO leader Andrej Babiš in the direction of the anti-immigrant and anti-EU Direct Democracy and Freedom party (SPD) and the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSČM) as the best chance of forming a government. Though many ANO lawmakers don’t appear to have a problem with cosying up to Tomio Okamura’s SPD many current ministers have.

Andrej Babiš,  photo: CTK
Speak to those who are willing to speak to you, that sums up the message from President Miloš Zeman after a meeting with caretaker prime minister Andrej Babiš at the head of state’s country retreat outside Prague.

Both men were apparently left stunned by the collapse of the coalition talks with the Social Democrats last week, which has narrowed the government options to what many in the country might regard as the worst possible scenario.

Andrej Babiš left the president’s Lány retreat saying that he would now have to consult with his party’s members of parliament about talks with Tomio Okamura’s SPD party.

ʺOf course we still have basic differences with the SPD party about the law on referenda. So there will of course be discussions about that but I am not able to say at the moment what the [ANO] movement would prefer.ʺ

Okamura’s party has been calling for a Czech referendum over continued EU membership. But a proposal backed by Babiš’ minority government at the end of March set out demanding rules for national referenda and excluded international agreements, such as EU and NATO membership, from being subject to such votes.

Tomio Okamura,  photo: Filip Jandourek
Sidelined so far from government talks, the outspoken Okamura welcomed the chance for his newcomer party to take centre stage as part of a possible government.

ʺOur SPD party is prepared to negotiate constructively for a good programme for the citizens of the Czech Republic. We hope that ANO will be ready to follow the recommendations of Mr. president and reopen these programme negotiations.ʺ

ANO’s members of parliament met on Tuesday in the wake of the collapse of the coalition talks. They were reported to have overwhelmingly backed Babiš as prime minister and come out against any further talks with the Social Democrats. Czech Television reported that many are warming to the idea of a minority ANO government supported by Okamura’s SPD and the communists.

ANO has 78 members in the 200-seat parliament and a tie up with the SPD would add another 22 votes. Support from the communists would take the total to a comfortable 115.

Miloš Zeman,  photo: CTK
But while ANO’s deputies appear to be willing to cosy up to Okamura’s party, some of the top leadership have warned they will resign if such a government is formed. Transport minister Dan Ťok warned Tuesday he would resign from the cabinet and parliament in protest. Justice minister Robert Pelikán has already said he would leave the Cabinet, in part through policy differences touching on a possible SPD connection. Foreign minister Martin Stropnický and the Czech EU Commissioner Věra Jourová have also warned against such a scenario. Many mainstream parties are cool about coalition with ANO due to the fact Babiš is facing criminal charges over alleged EU fraud.