Will Babiš change the Czech Republic?

The controversial media mogul Andrej Babiš has won the parliamentary elections in the Czech Republic. His populist and Eurosceptic party Ano garnered 29.6 percent of the vote, while the ruling social democrat ČSSD saw its share plunge to just 7.3 percent. Commentators see Czech democracy in danger and fear the emergence of an illiberal bloc in Eastern Europe.

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Respekt (CZ) /

Democracy in danger

These election results show that Czech democracy is at risk, editor-in-chief Erik Tabery writes in Respekt:

“No one for whom the future of the Czech Republic is important can turn a blind eye. The atmosphere in society has been dangerously radicalised. 130 of 200 members of parliament come from parties that question the entire history of our country since the Velvet Revolution to a greater or lesser degree. These politicians make everything look as if there were nothing good about this era. The people's trust in the foundations of democracy is in jeopardy. And this is all the more surprising because the Czech Republic is in fact a success. If the rifts in society widen and the doubts about liberal democracy spread, the consequences could be lasting and painful. And a further test will soon be upon us, namely the presidential elections at the start of next year.”

Pravda (SK) /

A humiliation for the social democrats

Czech voters have punished the social democrats of the ruling ČSSD party most of all, Pravda observes:

“The world of traditional blocs is definitely a thing of the past in the Czech Republic. The ČSSD has experienced a complete fiasco. After many years not only will it no longer be one of the two main parties which always formed part of the government, it won't even be a strong force in the opposition. Naturally it can't be ruled out that Babiš will ask the two parties that he has so crushingly defeated in the election - the social democrats and the Christian democrats - to form part of his government. But the ČSSD would only play a minor role. And carving out a new position for itself in an environment dominated by Babiš and xenophobics is likely to be a difficult task.”

Mandiner (HU) /

The Czech Republic's anti-elitist elite

The Czech political landscape has changed completely with the elections, Mandiner believes:

“The Czech political elite has received a brutal slap in the face from voters. ... Whereas the parties of the traditional elites only obtained 78 of the seats in the 200-strong parliament, taken together the new alternative forces obtained 122. This shift in the balance of power amounts to a landslide. ... Today's media love to talk about the decline of the elites. Nevertheless the situation in the Czech Republic is different: although Babiš rails against the elites, he himself is by no means an outsider. He made his billions in the 1990s as an integral part of the elite. So he's the representative of an 'anti-elitist elite', so to speak. Too bad the Czech voters didn't manage to see through that.”

Tages-Anzeiger (CH) /

Anti-EU stance will become stronger

Andrej Babiš will put the Czech Republic on an anti-EU footing, the Tages-Anzeiger fears:

“Since the 63-year-old businessman entered the political scene four years ago he's gone with the flow and adapted to the popular mood: from euro advocate to euro-opponent, from promoting immigration to our ageing, labour-lacking country to the very opposite. Babiš has given a boost to this trend among the Czechs, who for more than a decade have been hearing some of the most virulent anti-EU propaganda from presidents Václav Klaus and Miloš Zeman. Only 29 percent of the population still believes the EU is a good thing. Babiš will now no doubt strengthen his anti-EU stance, particularly considering the strong performance of the populist, far-right SPD in the elections.”

Die Welt (DE) /

An illiberal bloc in the east

A new East-West divide is opening up in Europe, Die Welt laments:

“The Czech Republic is moving in the direction of states like Poland and Hungary that embarked on the path of a new (or old) nationalism some time ago. ... The block of 'illiberal democracies' would be a frontal attack on the EU as a legal community. The fact that this almost happened proves that the EU's eastern expansion was premature. Too much attention was paid to lip service and too little to whether the candidate countries had internalised the spirit of the European laws. ... Today the division between East and West is far sharper than that between North and South in Europe. We can't be thankful enough that France is led by a president who refuses to accept this division and is working to repair this crack in the EU with great brio.”