The Czech Republic has its very own billionaire populist “Donald Trump” who claimed victory in the country’s general election Saturday, largely thanks to his conservative, Eurosceptic message.
With all votes recorded, Andrej Babiš’ ANO (Yes) movement won just under 30 percent of the vote, almost three times that of its main rival. The win secured the party 78 of the 200 seats in the Czech Chamber of Deputies, granting it unprecedented influence over public policy.
The Social Democrat party (CSSD), which has been the main player in Czech politics for more than two decades, came in sixth after achieving less than 7 percent of the vote. The Communist Party finished fifth.
Another Eurosceptic group, the center-right Civic Democratic party (ODS), won 11.3 percent of the final vote and came second. Closely behind them was the right-wing Freedom and Free Democracy party (SPD) with 10.6 percent, which ran on an anti-EU and anti-Muslim immigration message. Czech-Japanese party leader Tomio Okamura told voters that a referendum on EU membership was his primary concern. Prior to the election, the SPD also called for a total ban on Islam in the Czech Republic.
New Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, 63, is the country’s second wealthiest man. He made his estimated $4 billion fortune in the food and beverage, chemicals and media industries.
Mr. Babiš convinced his supporters that he would solve the Czech Republic’s economic problems, drain the swamp and end corruption within the political sphere, as well as defend the country’s borders from EU-forced immigration quotas.
However, after racing ahead in the polls, the European Union and the Czech establishment attempted to prevent him from running through bogus tax crime charges. He was subsequently fired from his position as the country’s finance minister and indicted earlier this month. When his opponents ordered him to step down as the ANO candidate for prime minister, he refused.
“I am happy that Czech citizens did not believe the disinformation campaign against us and expressed their trust in us,” Mr. Babiš told his supporters after the election results were revealed. “We are a democratic movement, we are a pro-European and pro-NATO party, and I do not understand why somebody labels us as threat to democracy,” he added.
Nationalist parties have seen a surge in success across Europe over recent months. In addition to the surprise Czech result, the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party gained a significant proportion of the German vote last month, enough to win it 94 seats in the country’s parliament. Austria’s populist Freedom Party won 26 percent of the vote earlier this month and will likely enter government alongside the right-wing People’s Party. The Party for Freedom (PVV) also secured 20 seats in the Dutch parliament’s lower house in March, making it the second-largest party in the House of Representatives.
Over the coming days, Prime Minister Babiš and his ANO party are expected to choose a coalition partner to help determine the new direction of the Czech Republic.