The Cable

Czech Prime Minister Flirts With Communist Alliance Ahead of Fall Elections

The minister could break from contemporary Czech tradition if it means saying no to ANO.

sobabis

Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka is courting communists in a bid to best his rival in the upcoming October election.

The move is a sharp break from politics as usual in the former Eastern Bloc country and a measure of Bohuslav’s desperation to beat Finance Minister Andrej Babis, the country’s most popular politician, second-richest man, and owner of half of Czech media.

Mainstream Czech parties have traditionally tried to keep the Communist Party out of power — the idea being that decades of forcible communist rule was years enough. On Friday, however, the Czech media outlet Hospodarske Noviny reported that Sobotka suggested in an interview that his party, the Social Democrats, could create a coalition government with the Communists.

“I don’t think there is an environment here to create a purely leftist government after the elections but there may be” — between Social Democrats and Communists — “a pro-European government that will respect social peace,” he said, an allusion to the continent’s rising euroskepticism. The remarks were perhaps a slight at Babis’s ANO Party, which advocates anti-establishment politics and fiscal restraint.

Babis has also suggested he could form a coalition government with the Communists, but it is unclear how that would mesh with his financial policy, given that the Communists are, well, communists.

The report of Sobotka’s flirtation with the Communists came two days after the prime minister sent Babis a letter suggesting the finance minister had avoided taxes.

Babis has denied this particular charge since 2013, when it emerged that he’d bought his own company’s bonds. He faces a criminal complaint over the bond purchase, as his income could not have been enough to buy the bonds at that time, but he said earlier this month that he also had untaxed incomes. He has denied any wrongdoing and, at least so far, fought off challengers to his No. 1 spot in the polls.

Photo credit: MICHAL CIZEK/AFP/Getty Images

Emily Tamkin is a staff writer at Foreign Policy covering ambassadorial and diplomatic affairs in Washington. @emilyctamkin

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