Many Czech prime ministers have lost their jobs for less than the possibility of fraud charges, but Babis is part of a new wave of populist politicians. Over the past few years, they’ve been testing the boundaries to see if there isn’t a scandal that can’t be exposed – and they’ve often found strengths.
However, there are signs that, following the government’s catastrophic handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Czech electorate is now taking a much closer look at its various scandals. The return of Stork’s Nest only adds to a growing list of headaches as the October 8-9 vote approaches.
The case has been around for six years now and lurked in the background even as Babis’s ANO party won the last election in 2017. However, that victory came before his four years in power, and amid high hopes. that he really could be the white knight arriving, as he claimed, to free the country from the cynical grip of the established parties that had ruled it, often corruptly, for the previous 27 years.
And most importantly, that was before he turned the Czech Republic into a coronavirus black hole, with 30,000 dead. This tragedy caused ANO’s support to drop to the point that in some polls it now sits third behind the liberal Pirates / Stan and center-right Spolu coalitions.
These support rails are often independent. The declining popularity of the ANO should increasingly draw the attention of its occasional centrist voters to the other scandals that rock its leader.
the EU audits who found Babis in conflict of interest over millions of euros in subsidies that the taxpayer seems to have to cover; the profound influence on the weak coalition government enjoyed by President Milos Zeman, linked to Russia and China, and the extremist parties of the left and the right; the ongoing attack on the independence of public broadcaster Ceska – all are now pandemic issues, as one analyst recently noted.
Some of these issues have already sparked protests, led by Milion chvelik pro demokracii (A Million Moments for Democracy). The civic organization, which in 2019 put more than a quarter of a million on the streets of Prague to ask Babis and Zeman to step down, says it has many more questions on its watch list and is considering upping the helm before the October elections.