Populist Prime Minister Andrej Babis, leader of his ANO party, said he would reject a potential offer from President Milos Zeman to form the new government after the elections held a week ago, and would hand over government to the winning opposition coalitions of SPOLU (rightwing Civic Democrats, centre-right Christian Democrats and TOP09) and the Pirates and STAN coalition.
Babis said earlier last week that the president made such an offer repeatedly during his meeting on October 10, following the election. Now he added that Zeman promised to give him two attempts to create a new government; however, he decided not to use them so that a new coalition government can be formed before Christmas.
"I will not accept the president's offer to form a government. We will go into opposition without a single attempt. We are not clinging to any positions, we will not block anything. It is important to me that our country prospers as it did under our government," Babis said.
"I originally wanted to wait for the president [who was taken to intensive care last week], but the short answer is... I had already made up my mind a long time ago," Babis added.
Babis promised to submit his government's resignation to Zeman after the first meeting of the new Chamber of Deputies, which will be held on November 8, in accordance with the constitution. The president would appoint a new PM to form the next cabinet in late November and early December.
"The president has no role to play at this point. Why does the Senate want a report [on his health condition]? Why does anyone need to know immediately what the president's health status is? It would be good for this disgusting issue to stop," Babis noted, referring to the Senate´s request from the president's office to report on the president´s health from last week.
The Senate asked for more details on the president's health and his capability to perform his duties, especially in regard to the elections, including a prognosis of Zeman's condition. However, Zeman´s office went quiet. Therefore, on Friday October 18, the Senate´s speaker Milos Vyskocil turned to the Institute of Medical Care and Zeman's doctor for more details.
At the general elections held last weekend, ANO lost to the SPOLU coalition which gained 27.8% of the vote and 71 seats in the lower house. The liberal Pirate-STAN coalition (Pirate party and Mayors and Independents), which is expected to be invited to form the new Cabinet with SPOLU, received 15.6% (and 37 seats in the Chamber of Deputies) and the far-right SPD 9.6% of votes and 20 seats.
Analysts said Babis knows that when inflation and energy prices are soaring and when costs of companies are steeply going up, voters would not forgive him for prolonging a state of “governmentlessness”. The voters would blame him, which he does not want, particularly when he is rumoured to be planning to run for president. Given Zeman´s health, the presidential election (which is planned for 2023) might be held earlier.
Babis has already gone back on his earlier pledge to leave parliament if he was not in government. Remaining in parliament will continue to give him the visibility he would need to mount a presidential bid.
If Babis goes to opposition, he will be able to criticize the new government and thus collect political points for his candidacy, promising the voters that better times would come if he was elected to the Prague Castle. Moreover, as an ordinary MP, Babis will once again be able to “own” his Agrofert group, which he had to put into trust funds, and thus he will be able to claim EU support.
"Andrej Babis would have passed the first round of the [presidential] election without difficulty. If he addressed only ANO voters, he would have won more votes than [current Senator] Jiri Drahos did in 2018. He would also be able to rely on the supporters of the left and nationalist parties who were defeated in the elections,” specialist on political marketing Karel Pluhar daily Pravo.
Babis has already started preparing the ground for approaching voters of his leftwing partners (Social Democrats, the Communists and the Oath party of Robert Slachta) in his speech this weekend on ´being in the opposition´. "Those of you who voted for the Social Democrats, for the Communists or the Oath, to all of you who voted and your parties did not get into the lower house, I want to say that your votes did not fail. I am here for you. I will be your voice in the house. You can count on that," Babis said.
According to Pluhar, the big question here is how Babis would do in the second round. “The sooner the presidential election is held, the better chance Andrej Babis has of success," he stressed.
According to a poll carried out by the Median Agency for Czech Radio station Radiozurnal on October 17, two-thirds of Czechs voters, particularly those under 29, people with university education and those living in cities, feel that Babis should not run for the post of president.