With voters upset over traditional parties and orders from Brussels, billionaire populist Andrej Babis, dubbed the”Czech Trump”, clinched victory in the Czech Republic’s election on Saturday, while eurosceptics and an anti-Islam group backed by France’s National Front made strong gains.
State election officials citing results from 99.6 percent of polling stations said Babis’s anti-corruption and anti-euro ANO (Yes) movement was ahead with 29.7 percent support (78 parliament seats) followed by the eurosceptic right-wing ODS party on 11.3 percent. Turnout was at 60 percent.
Despite the country’s economic success, analysts say many Czechs who are heavily in debt or working long hours for low wages feel they have been left behind and are turning to populist, eurosceptic and far-right anti-EU parties to vent their ire.
Far-right and far-left anti-EU parties made gains in the fragmented vote that put nine parties into the 200-seat Czech parliament with few obvious coalition allies among them, something analysts warned could trigger instability, even chaos. ODS leader Petr Fiala ruled out going into coalition with ANO, insisting it will not be able to deliver on its promises. The anti-establishment Pirates led by the dreadlocked Ivan Bartos made their debut in parliament, scoring 10.8 percent and coming in third.
The far-right Freedom and Free Democracy (SPD) party of Tokyo-born entrepreneur Tomio Okamura scored 10.7 percent support more than doubling its seats in parliament on strong anti-EU, anti-migrant and anti-Islam rhetoric, similar to surging far-right parties in neighbouring Austria and Germany. France’s far-right National Front Marine Le Pen sent Okamura a message of support.
A 63-year-old Slovak-born chemicals, food and media tycoon, Andrej Babis has vowed to steer clear of the Eurozone and echoes other eastern EU leaders who accuse Brussels of attempting to limit national sovereignty by imposing rules like migrant quotas, he favors a united Europe and balks at talk of a “Czexit”.
Full results showed the anti-EU Communists took fifth spot winning 7.8 percent support, while the Social Democrats (CSSD) who head the outgoing coalition government took a bruising, coming in sixth with 7.3 percent of the vote.
Andrej Babis owns major media outlets and has a stake in virtually every facet of his country’s agriculture sector. Now, after serving as finance minister, he has his sights on becoming the next Czech prime minister — a target he’s expected to achieve when voters go to the polls Friday and Saturday