Populists set to thrash traditional parties in Czech vote

Monday, October 16, 2017
By Paul Martin

16 October 2017

The Czech populist movement, ANO, led by a billionaire dubbed as the “Czech Trump”, is the clear favourite in a general election on Friday and Saturday where the traditional parties are set to take a thrashing.

The Czech Republic, which joined the EU in 2004 and has a population of 10.6 million, goes to the polls on October 20 and 21.

And Andrej Babis’ ANO movement looks positioned to emerge the clear winner.

In a recent poll by the Czech Academy of Sciences, the ANO scored 30.9 percent, more than the two traditional heavyweights in Czech politics — the Social Democrat CSSD and the right-wing ODS — combined, who scored just 13.1 percent and 9.1 percent respectively.

The ANO already held key posts in the current centre-left administration under Social Democrat Bohuslav Sobotka, including that of finance minister, occupied by Babis himself between January 2014 and May this year.

Dubbed by the media as either the “Czech Trump” or the “Czech Berlusconi”, the 63-year-old, Slovak-born tycoon — who ran the sprawling Agrofert conglomerate and was ranked by Forbes as the Czech Republic’s second wealthiest citizen — was riding high on “strong voter aversion to political parties tarnished by corruption scandals,” Charles University analyst, Josef Mlejnek, told AFP.

“He offers the voters a populist alternative by presenting himself as someone capable of managing the state because he has already successfully managed his conglomerate,” Mlejnek said.

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