Czech billionaire Andrej Babis says he will continue to lead his populist ANO party
Czech opposition leader and billionaire ex-premier Andrej Babis has dispelled speculation that he might step away from politics by announcing that he will seek re-election as chairman of his ANO party.
After his defeat in the 2021 general election and his drubbing in the presidential election in January, Babis had hinted that he might step back and let his lieutenants, ex-Minister of Finance Alena Schillerova and ex-Minister of Industry and Trade Karel Havlicek, run the populist party, which he founded in 2011. Schillerova now runs the party group in the Czech parliament.
Babis has often claimed that he only entered politics to sort out the corruption of the country's traditional ruling parties and that his political career has harmed his agro-chemical empire. Critics argue that he actually entered politics to help his businesses.
Babis, who has dominated Czech politics over the past decade, remains the unchallenged leader and main private funder of his party. Under ANO party rules, he has the final say in its policymaking. All significaint independent voices in the party, which has a tiny membership, have either left or been silenced.
ANO's resilient popularity and the government's woes seem to have whetted the billionaire's appetite for the key political battles next year, which include local elections and the European Parliament elections. Czechia is also to hold national elections in the autumn of 2025. ANO has been maintaining a massive lead in the polls, with a popularity of above 30%.
“I will run for the chairman in February, and then we’ll see,” Babis said during a televised discussion at CNN Prime News when asked whether he would want to be a premier again.
Separately, ANO also unveiled that the ex-Minister of Regional Development Klara Dostalova will be the party’s leading candidate for the European Parliament elections next year. ANO currently has six sitting MEPs.
“I am convinced she [Dostalova] will be the best person to fight for the interests of citizens in the European parliament,” Babis stated.
He added that he is against Czechia losing the veto rights in the EU, that he does not want the European Commission to run Europe, and that ANO is for the protection of the environment but does not want the “Green Deal destroying European industry and threatening employment”.
Babis has faced criticism from his partners in the liberal Renew Europe group in the European Parliament for his close ties with radical rightwing populists such as Hungarian strongman Viktor Orban. In the Slovak general election last month Babis also backed leftist populist Robert Fico, who won, rather than his Renew Europe partner, Progressive Slovakia.
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