ANO chief awaits grilling

ANO chief awaits grilling
21. března 2016 • 11:02
The affair surrounding the Čapí hnízdo [Stork’s Nest] farm and conference events centre has reached dimensions which could complicate the political career of ANO party leader and finance minister Andrej Babiš. He has found himself on the defensive, and he must try to explain the affair away. As long as he does not get entangled like former PM Stanislav Gross did – in various stories over how he acquired an apartment above his income level – Babiš should withstand the pressure.

Opposition parties TOP 09, the Civic Democrats [ODS] and Úsvit [Dawn] have seized their opportunity. The affair will this Wednesday be the subject of an extraordinary meeting of the lower chamber of Parliament, at which Babiš will be grilled. Ammunition has been handed over by deputy PM Babiš himself via his comments that he does not own the farm and that it was not fined by Czech administrative officials. Babiš was responding to claims that his group Agrofert sourced unwarranted EU subsidies for Čapí hnízdo running to CZK 50m. The case is being looked at by both Czech police and EU investigative offices.

The Christian Democrats, the junior partner in the ruling coalition, are leaning towards the opposition. According to them, Babiš must satisfactorily explain the controversial matter to voters. In contrast, Social Democrat PM Bohuslav Sobotka is apparently not interested in probing how the farm gained European monies. “Politicians should not replace investigators or state attorneys, they should not stand in for judges,” he said, without commenting on the extraordinary session of lawmakers ahead.

The boss of the caucus of Social Democrat MPs, Roman Sklenák, was rather more aggressive. “This is something which it’s not possible to just walk past. I’ve not been satisfied with the attitude of Mr. Babiš. He unfortunately perceives whatever other opinions are expressed as a foul trick.” The foreign minister and deputy chair of the Social Democrats Lubomír Zaorálek said he would prefer to pursue talks over the matter at the coalition council.

Babiš refused to comment on information that the brother of his partner or his eldest daughter sat at the head of Čapí hnízdo. “It’s being investigated and the investigation will certainly be concluded,” he remarked.

 
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