Czech billionaire politician Babis to form minority Cabinet with outside experts

Billionaire Andrej Babis, whose populist ANO movement won the Czech general election,  arrives to talk to journalists at the Lany Castle in the village of Lany, west of Prague on Oct 23, 2017.
Billionaire Andrej Babis, whose populist ANO movement won the Czech general election, arrives to talk to journalists at the Lany Castle in the village of Lany, west of Prague on Oct 23, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

PRAGUE (AFP) - Billionaire Andrej Babis, whose populist ANO movement won the Czech general election, said on Friday (Oct 27) he would form a minority Cabinet boosted by experts from outside the party - after being snubbed by all potential coalition partners.

Campaigning on an anti-corruption, anti-euro and anti-migrant ticket, ANO took the vote by storm last weekend, earning 78 seats in the 200-member Parliament, ahead of the right-wing ODS, the anti-establishment Pirates, the far-right SPD and five other parties.

But almost all party leaders have turned Mr Babis down during talks in the week following the election in the EU state of 10.6 million people.

"We will try a minority government, because we have been rejected everywhere," Mr Babis told the website of the leading broadsheet DNES, which belongs to his sprawling Agrofert conglomerate of chemicals, food and media companies.

"We will come up with a policy that in part fulfils the policies of all parties," added the 63-year-old Slovak-born entrepreneur, the second-wealthiest Czech.

He said the Cabinet would comprise ANO ministers alongside experts unaffiliated with the party.

President Milos Zeman will on Tuesday formally ask Mr Babis to put together the Cabinet, after which he can be appointed Prime Minister.

The only leader willing to join Mr Babis was Mr Tomio Okamura, a Tokyo-born entrepreneur and head of the far-right SPD, but Mr Babis ruled this partnership out.

"That (partnership) would be lethal for Babis," independent political analyst Jiri Pehe told AFP.

He added that a minority ANO Cabinet boosted by experts would have more legitimacy in the eyes of political rivals than a pure ANO Cabinet, especially if they are close to the other parties.

"With a Cabinet of experts, Babis has a greater chance of success when he asks one or two other parties for backing with each specific Bill," said Mr Pehe.

Party leaders have slammed Mr Babis for facing fraud charges related to his Stork Nest farm, which Mr Babis pulled out of Agrofert to make it eligible for an EU subsidy granted to small companies, before eventually returning it to the holding.

Police said on Monday they would suspend prosecution after Mr Babis regained immunity as a lawmaker in the election, but party leaders have continued to turn the billionaire down.

President Zeman has previously named the minority Cabinet as an option for Mr Babis, besides a standard coalition government.

"I can only guarantee backing Babis, with either option, simply because he won the election and the winner must be honoured, not envied," the 73-year-old veteran left-winger said in a TV interview on Thursday.