Czech Babis gains possible support in bid for minority government

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 30, 2017 5:52 PM

PRAGUE (Reuters) - Czech billionaire Andrej Babis gained possible support on Monday for his bid to form a minority government with his ANO movement when the small Communist party said it could "tolerate" the prospect.

ANO won nearly three times as many votes as its closest competitor in a parliamentary election this month when voters shunned traditional parties but fell short of a majority in the lower house.

Since then, the other eight parties that won seats have refused cooperation with ANO with the exception of the SPD, a far-right, anti-European Union party that is not a preferred coalition partner for Babis.

The businessman ran on an anti-establishment platform and pledged to fight political corruption but he faces potential fraud charges himself.

The ANO has 78 seats in the 200-seat lower house and is considering forming a minority government but it must win a confidence vote with a simple majority of those present.

The head of the far-left Communist party (KSCM) said he could tolerate a minority cabinet as a way out of the impasse.

"It is a question of how much the government's program would fit us, to tolerate this government," KSCM chairman Vojtech Filip told Czech Television. "I am not saying we will support it, I am speaking about tolerance."

KSCM with its 15 seats would have to leave the lower house during a confidence vote thus lowering the threshold ANO would need to win.

President Milos Zeman, who will meet with Babis on Tuesday, told Czech Radio a minority government would be a good option.

Most parties shun Babis and his ANO party because of the fraud charges. Police say he hid ownership of a farm and conference center near Prague in 2008 so he could qualify for a 2 million euro EU subsidy normally meant for small businesses.

Babis denies wrongdoing and says the charges were politically motivated.

** For a GRAPHIC of election results:

(Reporting by Jason Hovet; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg)