Czech PM narrowly survives no-confidence vote

After a gruelling 17 hour debate, the government of embattled Czech prime minister Andrej Babiš has narrowly survived a motion of no-confidence with 85 votes for, 85 against and 30 abstentions. The no-confidence vote was tabled by five opposition parties in light of mounting controversy and criticism surrounding the premiership of Mr Babiš and accusations of corruption.

While it was widely expected that Mr Babiš would muster enough support to survive, the vote has “great symbolic value”, KDU-ČSL chairman Marek Výborný told Radio Prague. “Every MP must clearly say whether or not they have confidence in this government and this prime minister.”

The billionaire Mr Babiš is currently facing charges in connection with a two million-euro subsidy scam, as well as EU accusations over conflict of interest. Before he came to power in 2017 Mr Babiš transferred the ownership of his Agrofert conglomerate into two trust funds, yet a leaked EU report shows that he is still benefiting from company profits. There are also mounting questions surrounding his involvement with the Czechoslovak secret police (the StB) in the 1980s. More than 250,000 Czechs protested on the streets of Prague last weekend in what was the biggest demonstration of the post-communist era. The protesters demanded his resignation, along with that of justice minister and Babiš ally Marie Benesova.

Despite this, his populist ANO (YES) party still tops opinion polls with 27.5 per cent, only slightly down from the 30 per cent the party took in the recent EU elections.

Staunchly denying any wrongdoing, the prime minister refuses to step down, calling the investigations a political plot and an attack on his leadership. Moreover, Czech president Miloš Zeman is ignoring mounting pressure to request the resignation of Mr Babiš. The two men are close allies.