Prague Poised to Turn Away From Brussels
The Czech Republic is set to take a Euroskeptic turn in a general election this weekend — even though the EU has hardly featured in the campaign, Politico writes.
Recent polls predict the maverick ANO movement and its founder, former Finance Minister Andrej Babiš, will be the election’s biggest winner with some 25 percent of the vote. Support for Babiš is largely due to his vow to fight political corruption — despite the fact he currently faces charges of subsidy fraud. But he has also denounced EU-imposed migrant quotas and “EU meddling” in Czech politics.
If Czech voters decide to back an adamantly anti-EU candidate and join the ranks of fellow Euroskeptics Poland and Hungary, the outcome will further strain EU efforts to maintain a semblance of political cohesion. A decisive victory for Babiš and his populist party would mark a turning point in the country’s relationship with Brussels, with the Czechs finding themselves on the periphery of a bloc increasingly likely to splinter into first- and second-class members.
Yet the future of the EU — and the Czech Republic’s role in it — has not been a big talking point in the run-up to the vote, which takes place on Saturday and Sunday.
“What is puzzling about this electoral campaign is how little, or not at all, the European prospects of the Czech Republic are being discussed,” said political analyst Jiří Pehe, the director of New York University in Prague and a former adviser to the late Czech President Václav Havel.
“If you take into account that the European Union may actually embark on a path to a two-speed Europe, it is really puzzling that Czech politicians are not discussing this, that they don’t take any [public] stance.”
Currently, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka’s center-left Social Democrats (ČSSD) are the strongest party in the lower house of parliament with 50 seats, followed by ANO with 47 seats and the Communist Party with 33. The country is governed by a three-party coalition comprised of ČSSD, ANO and the centrist Christian Democrats.