Czech Republic: Babiš acquitted shortly before election

In a surprise decision, former Czech prime minister Andrej Babiš has been acquitted of charges of EU subsidy fraud just a few days before the first round of the presidential election in the Czech Republic. Commentators size up the oligarch's chances of winning the race against his main rivals, ex-general Petr Pavel and economics professor Danuše Nerudová after this latest development.

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Mladá fronta dnes (CZ) /

A grand finale

Mladá fronta dnes believes the verdict will give the former prime minister a major boost:

Babiš will now make another tour of the republic. In Paris, he will be received by Europe's de facto ruler, Emmanuel Macron, and he will meet the most famous Czech writer Milan Kundera. Then comes his only participation in a televised presidential debate, which promises to attract a huge audience. And he won a triumphant victory in court in the 15-year-old Stork's Nest case. Can anyone imagine a more ideal finale to his election campaign?”

Hospodářské noviny (CZ) /

This will hardly help him

Hospodářské noviny doesn't believe the verdict will make Babiš's path to Prague Castle much easier:

“The acquittal will help Babiš less than one might think now. It will earn him a few percent, which will send him into the second round of the presidential election. But the oligarch will lose that round. There is now a gap of almost twenty percentage points between him on the one hand and the combined support for Petr Pavel and Danuše Nerudová on the other. No one has ever closed such a gap within three weeks, which is all that is left until the run-off election. Babiš can consider himself lucky that he no longer faces imprisonment. But he will not enjoy his freedom at Prague Castle.”

Respekt (CZ) /

Elections in unusual times

Respekt describes the special nature of these presidential elections:

“They are unusual in that they are taking place at a time when war is raging not far from our borders. We have fundamental energy and economic issues to resolve. Moreover, we are very divided, often due to the activities of pro-Russian manipulators. The Czech Republic needs a person in the castle who will watch over the rule of law, the democratic institutions and the country's Western orientation. The very fact that the new president will appoint the vast majority of constitutional judges will shape this country for years to come.”