Czech coalition partner warns pullout over new law

Billionaire Andrej Babis’ party warns its partners in Czech government it could pull out from government over new law on politician's involvement in private companies

Photo by: Reuters (Archive)
Photo by: Reuters (Archive)

Andrej Babis, leader of the ANO movement.

The second-biggest party in the Czech government, led by billionaire Andrej Babis, warned its partners on Monday that the ruling coalition could crumble if deputies support legislation aimed at limiting politicians' ownership in private companies.

A deputy in the ruling Social Democrat party proposed the draft amendment would force future ministers to choose between giving up ownership in a firm or profiting from it and would also ban government officials from media ownership.

The proposal is part of conflict-of-interest legislation, seen as targeting Finance Minister Babis - a billionaire businessman who founded the ANO movement that is part of the coalition government.

Following a leadership meeting on Monday, ANO said that support for the bill would be a violation of the coalition agreement.

"If coalition partners continue this way, it will be them who can be responsible for ending coalition cooperation," it said.

Babis founded ANO, which is now the country's most popular party in the polls, and he is seen as a contender to be prime minister after the next election in 2017.

A number of deputies from Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka’s Social Democrat party, and the Christian Democrats, along with the third coalition members said that they would support the changes.

Babis also owns Agrofert Group, which owns more than 200 companies spanning chemicals, farming, food and media.

TRTWorld, Reuters