Record Czech poll support for ANO as its leader adopts Kremlin-appeasing narrative

Record Czech poll support for ANO as its leader adopts Kremlin-appeasing narrative
Former premier Andrej Babis in one of his campaign videos. / Andrej Babis Facebook
By Albin Sybera March 12, 2024

Czechia's ANO party of populist ex-prime minister and billionaire Andrej Babis would attract a record-high 38.5% of the vote, according to a national poll compiled by Kantar agency for Czech Television (CT). Regular elections are scheduled for  autumn 2025.

The figure is the highest support for a political party in the ten years of Kantar agency polling and means that no government could be formed without ANO. It also comes as Babis is hardening his rhetoric, alleging that “Czechia is being dragged into war” in Ukraine in his commentary published in the daily MF Dnes, formerly owned by his Agrofert conglomerate.

Babis also criticised the centre-right cabinet of Prime Minister Petr Fiala for suspending joint sessions with Slovakia's cabinet, which the Czech side did in response to the recent meeting between Slovakia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Juraj Blanar and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov.   

Babis’ latest comments prompted Minister of Foreign Affairs Jan Lipavsky to call Babis “a security threat to this country” during the Sunday, March 10 political debate at CT, pointing to “the manner with which he undermines the defence capability and international ranking of our country”.  

On Monday, March 11, Czech media reported that in an accidentally sent email from Sunday afternoon, Babis asked his PR team “get me these files on that f***er. Write me a story [about Lipavsky’s visit to] Israel, how he didn’t give a damn about our people, how he was in Doha, travels everywhere, does campaign”.

Babis addressed the email to his aide Jan Rovensky but accidentally clicked on an email of a former Greenpeace Czech spokesperson of the same name who was a bi-partisan member of the committee overseeing coal-mining limits in the northern Bohemian town Litvinov.

The correspondence contained instructions to look into the Lipavsky family, including a school-aged daughter. Environmentalist Rovensky told bne IntelliNews that Babis’ comments about Lipavsky’s family is what prompted him to publish the misaddressed email.

“It is disgusting, and according to me, it is in the public interest for people to know about it”, Rovensky told bne IntelliNews, adding that he has never been a fervent critic of Babis, whom he co-credited for saving the town of Horni Jiretin from demolition to make room to coal mining.    

The Kantar poll was carried out in the second half of February and shows that ANO polls nearly double compared to the closest challenger, Fiala’s neoliberal ODS party, with 14.5%, followed by ODS’ ruling coalition partners, the socially liberal Pirate Party, with 9.5%. The far-right and anti-EU opposition of the SPD party would win 9%.

Two more ruling coalition parties, centrist Mayors and Independents (7%) and liberal right-wing TOP 09 (5%) would re-enter the parliament while the Christian Democratic KDU-CSL (2%) is sinking further down from the 5% parliamentary threshold. The unreformed conservative Czech Communist Party would win 2.5%, and so would the socially democratic SOCDEM.

If the right-wing ruling parties (ODS, TOP 09 and KDU-CSL) ran on the joint SPOLU list, as they did in 2021 when SPOLU narrowly ousted ANO, SPOLU would win 20%. Under this model, ANO would win 39%, the Pirate Party 10%, SPD 9% and the Mayors 7.5%.

In terms of parliamentary representation, no government would be possible without ANO, which would win a staggering 95 deputies in the Chamber of 200, and combined with the other opposition party, SPD, the two would combine for 117 deputies, just three short of a constitutional majority. The current five-party coalition would combine for 83 deputies.

Under the model with SPOLU, ANO would win 93 deputies, SPOLU 49, Pirates 23, SPD 21 and Mayors 14.

Commentators fear that with a constitutional majority, Babis could redraw not just Czechia’s foreign policy but could undo the very foundations of the democratic state, similar to the way Hungarian strongman Viktor Orban, whom Babis praises, and his Fidesz party undid democracy in Hungary.

Speculation also abounds that ODS could abandon the SPOLU list and form a future cabinet with ANO.  

Babis has also publicly backed Slovakia's populist PM Robert Fico, who made a comeback to the cabinet last autumn and, within few months, reoriented Slovakia’s foreign policy from one of the staunchest Nato backers of Ukraine into an ally of Orban’s Hungary, demanding peace talks with the Kremlin.

Fico and his Smer party also pursued a domestic power grab after making sweeping changes at the helm of the police and intelligence service SIS. Fico has called for the ejection of the head of Constitutional Court Igor Fiacan, whose ruling put a check on Fico’s judicial overhaul.