Anti-establishment billionaire vying to become Czech Republic’s next prime minister

by WorldTribune Staff, October 18, 2017

The last time an anti-establishment billionaire made waves in pre-election polls, the major media scoffed and wrote it off and it became fodder for late-night talk show hosts.

We all know how that turned out.

Andrej Babis arrives at an election campaign rally in Prague. / Reuters

Andrej Babis, a 63-year-old billionaire and leader of the anti-establishment ANO party, has ridden the same wave that drove Brexit and the Trump revolution to take the lead in polls in the election for Czech Republic prime minister.

“Europe is a great project,” said Babis. “But European politicians should seriously ask why the UK is leaving. They are dealing with the wrong issues in pursuing further integration.”

Babis is often compared to U.S. President Donald Trump “due to his wealth, populist agenda, and Teflon-like ability to brush off financial scandals and coarse outbursts,” the Telegraph noted in an Oct. 14 report.

And like Trump, the Czech candidate’s views on integration, immigration and Russia “have left many in Europe eyeing his poll lead with nervousness.”

ANO, a centrist and populist party Babis founded in 2011, has centered its campaign on the billionaire’s promise to run the country like his business, the Agrofert group, which is the Czech Republic’s largest private employer.

The party is also calling for the EU to close its borders and establish migrant camps overseas.

“We must institute reform to deal with the problems surrounding security, immigration and the four freedoms: the free movement of goods, capital, services, and labor,” Babis said.

“We have terrorism blighting Europe,” Babis said. “What are we waiting for? I’ll tell [French president] Macron how to deal with illegal immigration and terrorism. We need to deal with Syria and Libya. We need a Marshall Plan for Syria, and for that we need to bring Trump, Putin and Erdogan to the table. That’s the priority now. Or we can continue to tell Putin he must leave Crimea, and then wait a hundred years.”

Babis said he won’t seek a Czexit if he becomes prime minister, though that was really never a choice since exports to the EU account for close to 70 percent of Czech GDP.

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