The lower house of the Czech parliament overturned a presidential veto on a new conflict of interests bill on January 11 when lawmakers passed the legislation for a third time with a huge majority.
The bill is aimed squarely at billionaire finance minister and leader of the Ano party Andrej Babis. President Milos Zeman, with whom Babis has been forming closer relations ahead of elections in October, vetoed the legislation in December.
The parliamentary vote annuls Zeman’s block. The president earlier suggested that he would apply to the Constitutional Court should the lower house overturn his veto.
The bill, dubbed “Lex Babis”, was passed by parliament for a second time in November. It stipulates that companies in which cabinet ministers hold 25% or more will be blocked from competing for public tenders and investment incentives. It also bans ministers from owning media companies.
Babis – who owns the country’s biggest private employer, Agrofert, as well as several media and healthcare assets– insisted yet again following the latest vote that he has never gained any unfair advantage from his political engagement. According to an analysis released by the HlidaciPes.org server recently, Agrofert has received public orders worth CZK35bn over the past 10 years.
Babis added that both Ano and Zeman are likely to file a complaint with the Constitutional Court.
"I will fight for my rights. It is not normal that traditional parties, rotten with corruption, should close the door to people who have achieved something and want to help our country," he told reporters after the vote, according to Reuters. "This law is meant to make me leave politics. I will not give the authors of this dirty trick the pleasure."
However, he also reiterated comments from earlier this month that he will comply with the law should it be enacted. He has suggested he could put his companies into a trust. Critics of the bill note that it does not penalise ministers whose relatives hold the designated assets.
Babis is the likely next prime minister, with Ano enjoying a strong lead in polls ahead of the October vote. The CSSD, current coalition leader, sees the billionaire’s conflicts of interest as his main Achillies heel, although scandals and the passage of the bill have done little to dent his popularity.