Czech PM says ready to face allegations

Czech PM says ready to face allegations

PRAGUE – Reuters
Czech PM says ready to face allegations

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis yesterday requested that lawmakers lift his parliamentary immunity so he can face allegations of fraud as he fights to win support for a minority government.

Police are investigating whether Babis, the Czech Republic’s second-richest person, illegally received a 2 million-euro European Union subsidy a decade ago by hiding ownership of a farm and conference center. Babis denies wrongdoing.

Babis made his request before he appeared at a parliamentary committee hearing on whether to recommend his immunity be lifted.

The lower house was also set to resume debate on a vote of confidence in Babis’s one-party government. He was expected to lose, because most other political parties say the cabinet should not be led by a person under investigation .

Babis’s ANO party won election in October by a wide margin but short of an absolute majority, with 78 of 200 seats in the lower house.

If it loses the confidence vote, Babis’s government will stay in office until a new one is formed. He may end up leading any new

government; his pledges to weed out political corruption and run government with a businessman’s touch have kept him popular.

His situation could be further complicated by a presidential election that is heading to a tight run-off on Jan. 26-27. It pits incumbent Milos Zeman, who has backed Babis, against Jiri Drahos, who has said it would be unacceptable to have a sitting prime minister who faces criminal charges.