PM Babiš survives third no-confidence vote, thanks to Communist walk-out

Prime Minister Andrej Babiš’s minority government has survived yet another no-confidence motion. After some 12 hours of debate – which often degenerated into personal attacks – the opposition failed to muster the 101 votes needed to topple the government, largely thanks to a walk-out staged by the Communists.

Thursday’s no-confidence motion was the third that Mr Babiš has weathered, despite potentially facing Czech criminal charges for EU subsidy fraud, and a Brussels audit that finds the Slovak-born billionaire in conflict of interest regarding the business empire he built.

The motion – which comes four months ahead of the October general election – was called by representatives of three conservative parties (the Civic Democrats, Christian Democrats and TOP 09) and two liberal ones (the Pirates, and Independents and Mayors).

Civic Democrat party chairman Petr Fiala told the extraordinary session of the lower house of Parliament that his coalition, Spolu, had put forward 40 specific reasons why the government was undeserving of their confidence.

Petr Fiala | Photo: Michaela Danelová,  Czech Radio

“The first reason is the most important, and that is human health and human life. Over the past year, coronavirus pandemic killed 30,000 of our fellow citizens. In the ranking of countries that managed the pandemic the worst, the Czech Republic held a catastrophic place.”

Apart from alleged corruption and mismanaging the coronavirus crisis, Mr Fiala also charged the  government had failed to secure significant solidarity abroad amid the diplomatic row with Russia, over a 2014 blast blamed on intelligence agents dispatched by the Kremlin.

"Confidence means relying on others, putting your future in their hands. I ask you, ladies and gentlemen, to answer the following questions sincerely: Can I rely on this government? Do I trust it? Can I entrust it with my future, that of my children and other citizens? The answer for the Spolu coalition is clear: No!”

To remain in power, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš has relied on the tolerance of the Communists in exchange for policy concessions. This time around, MPs from that largely unreformed party left the hall during the vote. Its chairman, Vojtěch Filip, said they did not support the Babiš government nor the two opposition coalitions.

Andrej Babiš | Photo: Michal Krumphanzl,  ČTK

In his opening remarks to the chamber, an incredulous Mr Babiš also had a list – of what he called his government’s many accomplishments, and myriad reasons why it was deserving of confidence.

“You want to overthrow a government that has pushed for decent pensions, radically raised people’s salaries, reduced people’s taxes, raised living standards, cares about families and consumers, finally made investments, and fights for Czech interests!”

Mr Babiš went on to attack the opposition for trying to oust him from office and politics at all costs. His harshest rhetoric, though, was directed at the Pirate Party, which he blames for instigating EU scrutiny of his businesses.

“We in the Czech Republic don’t want a multicultural, eco-fanatic, ‘Pirate-istan’… We don’t want our country to be governed by the European Parliament – unlike the green fanatics!”

Recent opinion polls suggest the coalition of the Pirate Party and Mayors and Independents would win the October elections with a quarter of the vote. As Czech Radio’s chief parliament correspondent put it, the embattled Mr Babiš at time sounded like a far-right politician, in accusing opponents of undermining Czech culture and sovereignty.