Czech ANO party maintains strong poll lead

Czech ANO party maintains strong poll lead
Babis is facing a fraud trial in the Czech Republic, and French police are investigating tax evasion allegations. / bne IntelliNews
By Robert Anderson in Prague August 15, 2022

The ANO party of Czech billionaire populist Andrej Babis is maintaining its strong position in opinion polls ahead of the Senate and municipal elections next month.

Babis’ personal vehicle ANO, which lost power at the September 2021 general election, would win 30%, almost double the right-wing Civic Democrats (ODS), which currently leads a five-party coalition government, according to a Median poll published on Friday by news agency CTK. ANO’s vote had strengthened by 1 percentage points (pp) in July compared to June; the ODS vote fell by 0.6pp to 15.5%.

Babis, who is expected to stand for president in the elections in January, is currently touring the country in a campaign that blames the government for failing to protect people from the cost of living crisis. His campaign also hints that the government is too keen on helping Ukrainian refugees and supporting sanctions against Russia.

Opinion polls show him comfortably leading the first round of the two-round presidential elections. However, Babis and ANO could face some obstacles this autumn, with the agro-chemical tycoon going on trial for fraud in the Stork's Nest case, and the government considering suing his Agrofert concern to repay millions of euros in EU subsidies it should not have received because of the conflict of interest between his political and business power.

French prosecutors are also looking into allegations of tax evasion over the purchase of a luxury property there that were revealed in last October's Pandora Papers leak. The documents claim that Babis failed to declare an offshore investment company in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) and used it to purchase two villas for €14.04mn in the south of France in 2009. The scandal appears to have helped Babis lose the election later that month.

Babis denies all the allegations and Agrofert argues it has no need to repay any subsidies.

In third place in the Median poll was the far-right Freedom and Democracy SPD party of Tomio Omakura with a stable 12.5%.

The second-strongest coalition party was the Pirates, which would get 10.5%, down 1.3 pp from June. The three other coalition parties are hovering around the 5% threshold to enter Parliament, with the Christian Democrats (KDH-CSL) just below the cut-off.

The seventh party to enter Parliament would be the Social Democrats (CSSD) at 5%. The party is currently out of parliament but was one of the strongest political forces from the mid-1990s until five years ago.