Prague, Czech Republic – The question appears to be on everyone’s lips: will Andrej Babis, the billionaire Prime Minister defeated in the parliamentary elections earlier this month, decide to bid his time and run for Czech President?
Most Czechs opposed to Babis running for President
A new poll suggests a majority of the population is not too enthused at the prospect, with two-thirds of Czech voters said they opposed Babis running for the post of president in the future.
Approximately one-quarter of respondents of the Median survey on the contrary said they would welcome the idea of the ANO leader presenting his candidacy to replace Milos Zeman.
Commenting on the results of the survey, Median director Premysl Cech noted that Babis’ candidacy would be supported by ANO supporters, as well as those with a lower education level. Young urban voters under the age of 29, on the other hand, are the most opposed to the idea.
Even though Zeman’s second and last term will only end in 2023, speculation is rife in Czech society and media, not the least because of the uncertain state of health of the current head of state, who has been hospitalized since October 10.
Should President Zeman, who has been an influential and highly divisive figure over the past decades, be unable to finish his term, the cards of Czech politics are likely to be dramatically redistributed.
What next for Babis?
During the campaign, Prime Minister Babis said he would rather quit politics than enter opposition, but comments made last week signaled an important turnaround in his post-election defeat prospects.
Promising not to stand in the way of a smooth transition for the five-party opposition coalition slated to take power, he assured he would refuse if Zeman – as many feared and on the grounds that ANO remains the single most important party, coalitions notwithstanding – tasked him with forming a new government.
But contrary to ANO, isolated and ally-less, the five-party coalition headed by Petr Fiala of the Civic Democrats (ODS) enjoys a comfortable majority in the lower house of Parliament.
Is this U-turn a signal that the billionaire PM is bidding his time to possibly run to move in Prague Castle, the seat of the Czech President?
Potential candidates bid their time
Some appear to think so. Including Karel Schwarzenberg, former Foreign Affairs Minister and Zeman’s presidential opponent in 2013. who recently suggested Babis should try to run.
Babis himself never confirmed nor denied the rumours but indicated that his ANO party would surely present a candidate for the next presidential elections.
Apart from Babis himself, who largely remains the face and soul of the party he founded, other possible contenders from the ranks of ANO include Trade and Industry Minister Karel Havlicek and Finance Minister Alena Schillerova, seen as his two possible favourites for succession.
Among other potential candidates, bookmakers have singled out General Petr Pavel, former chairman of the NATO military committee, as well as former presidential hopeful Jiri Drahos, Pavel Fischer, and ex-Prime Minister and President Vaclav Klaus.
Whether he decides to run himself or put all the clout of his party and media empire in favour of another ANO candidate, many also warn that Babis’ will to keep a close ally at the Prague Castle could be a way to shield himself from the numerous affairs of corruption he’s facing, both at the domestic and EU level.