Czech PM says ready to face allegations
PRAGUE – Reuters
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.