- By Emily TamkinEmily Tamkin is a staff writer at Foreign Policy. She writes for FP’s The Cable, a real-time take on the news in Washington and the wider world. She has been at FP since the fall of 2016, before which she was an associate editor at New America, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington. She has a B.A. in Russian literature from Columbia University, an M.Phil. in Russian and East European studies from the University of Oxford, and studied Soviet dissidence in archival centers in Moscow, Tbilisi, and, on a Fulbright, in Bremen — all of which means that at FP, she writes when she can on Russia and Central and Eastern Europe.
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