Tags: andrej babis | czech republic | election | leader

Populist Billionaire Front-Runner in Czech Election

Image: Populist Billionaire Front-Runner in Czech Election
Andrej Babis (Petr David Josek/AP)

By    |   Wednesday, 18 October 2017 10:17 AM

Populist billionaire Andrej Babis, 63, and his political party, ANO, lead the Czech Republic's upcoming election, The New York Times reports.

Babis, who served as finance minister and deputy prime minister, owns the agriculture conglomerate Agrofert and the media group MAFRA, which owns two of the Czech Republic's most prominent daily newspapers, a popular radio station, and TV network.

"He has tremendous power," Otto Eibl, assistant professor of political science at Masaryk University in Brno, told the Times. "So the concentration of power in Babis's hands is enormous and some people are nervous about it. And they are right."

Like President Donald Trump, Babis favors populist, anti-immigration rhetoric and vows to run the government like one of his businesses should he win.

"He is like Trump, really," political analyst Jiri Pehe, director of the Prague branch of New York University, told the Times. "You can watch him and see how he suffers in Parliament, forced to listen to other people."

However, the billionaire business owner rejects comparisons to Trump, telling The Washington Post in an interview that unlike the American president, he "was never bankrupt."

In 2013, Babis' party placed second in the country's parliamentary elections, granting him and several other members into prominent positions in a coalition government with the moderate Social Democratic Party, which leans left, and the Christian Democratic Union, which leans right. Babis became finance minister, but was later fired from his post and charged with misuse of European Union subsidies.

"The other parties are trying to push Babis out of politics, but it hasn't worked," Pavel Fischer, the director of Prague-based polling and research group Stem, told the Times.

The latest polls show ANO leading with 25 to 30 percent of the vote, far ahead of its closest competition from the Social Democrats, though many are still undecided.

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Populist billionaire Andrej Babis, 63, and his political party, ANO, lead the Czech Republic's upcoming election, The New York Times reports.
andrej babis, czech republic, election, leader
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2017-17-18
Wednesday, 18 October 2017 10:17 AM
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