Czech president pledges to appoint general election winner as PM

By bne IntelliNews August 14, 2017

A spokesman for Milos Zeman stressed on August 12 that the Czech president will appoint the winner of the October parliamentary elections as prime minister.

The comment comes in the wake of news two days earlier that the police have asked for the parliamentary immunity of Andrej Babis to be lifted. The comment from Prague Castle is clearly meant as a show of support for the billionaire leader of the Ano party and frontrunner in the polls. Many have protested against what seems to be a backroom deal between Zeman and Babis, that would see Ano offer support to the president in head of state elections due in January in return for his backing in the general election.

The police want parliament to lift the immunity of Babis to allow them to prosecute him over alleged fraudulent EU funding claims connnected to his Capi hnizdo (Stork’s Nest) resort. Police have also asked that the immunity of Jaroslav Faltyn – Ano deputy chairman and a former member of senior management at Babis’ agrochemicals conglomerate Agreofert – be revoked.

The Social Democrats (CSSD), leader of the current coalition that includes Ano, are attempting to make up ground on the populist centrist party, which has led polls with around 30% support for over a year. However, the left-leaning CSSD’s several attempts to drain support from its rival have so far had little effect.

Presidential spokesman Jiri Ovcacek’s words were clearly meant to send a message to voters that the head of state would put no obstacles in Babis’ way to the PM’s chair. The official also echoed the Ano head in questioning the timing of the police request, which comes two months ahead of the election.

The request will be put to a vote in the lower house of parliament in September. Should the motion pass, the pair’s parliamentary immunity will be lifted and police will be able to press charges. Under Czech legislation, Babis would be able to stand for election even if formal charges are filed against him. He would receive fresh immunity if re-elected.

However, reflecting its stance as an anti-corruption party that seeks to clean up the country’s grubby political culture, Ano has a ‘moral code’ that insists no member will seek to use parliamentary immunity to evade prosecution. Faltynek has said he will not defend himself against the application.

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