Pundit: “Several factors” behind Babiš presidential announcement delay

Andrej Babiš

After previously saying he would say in September whether he will stand in presidential elections early next year, Andrej Babiš now says he would only announce “at the last moment”. Why this evident change of strategy? And will his team be satisfied with the latest polling for the former prime minister. I put those questions to political scientist Jiří Pehe.

Stork’s Nest | Photo: Michaela Danelová,  Czech Radio

“I think that there may be several factors contributing to the fact that Babiš has decided to postpone the official announcement of his candidacy.

“One of them is of course his upcoming trial in the case – it has been scheduled for mid-September.

“And of course it would be rather unfortunate for Babiš to be forced to announce his candidacy at the time when his trial will begin.

Josef Středula | Photo: OISV,  Wikimedia Commons,  CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED

“He may be hoping that the trial will be over or there will be some preliminary results by the end of this year, so he may be able to announce his candidacy without his decision being overshadowed by the trial.

“Then there is Josef Štredula, the trade union leader who has announced his candidacy and is aiming at the same electorate as Babiš; Babiš probably wants to see how much Štredula’s support will grow.

“And finally it seems that there is also a financial aspect to this all, because once Babiš announces his candidacy officially any spending will be monitored.”

Petr Pavel | Photo: Jana Přinosilová,  Czech Radio

An opinion poll published on Sunday suggests that Babiš has the most support of any potential candidates, with 28.5 percent, ahead of Petr Pavel on 19.5 percent. Obviously there’s a long way to go until the elections, but how satisfied will Babiš’s team be, do you think, with that level of backing?

“I think Babiš’s team must be worried, because 28 percent at this point basically overlaps with the support for his [ANO] movement in the parliamentary elections.

Illustratiove photo: René Volfík,  Czech Radio

“So it seems there is a hard core of his voters who will vote for him and may help him to get into the second round.

“But if you look at the candidates, and he probably does it as well, we can see that even if he manages to get into the second round there are not many candidates whose voters would support Babiš.

“His main problem will be those roughly 20 percent that he has to gain among Czech voters if he wants to win the election.

Jiří Pehe | Photo: Tomáš Roček,  Czech Radio

“At this point because his negative ratings are so high it is not very likely that he will have an easy ride.”

What should we make of the fact that there are so many candidates, or expected candidates, many of whom are not well-known figures?

“No-one should really take the number of candidates very seriously, because many of them will never make it even into the first round, simply because they will not be able to collect the necessary 50,000 signatures, or they will not have the support among deputies or senators [the backing of 20 is required].

“So after the presidential race starts I expect most of these people to be eliminated quickly, and the real field will be much narrower than what we see today.”