Czech tycoon in tough coalition talks after poll win

The leader of ANO party Andrej Babis speaks to the media in front of the Lany chateau after meeting with President Milos Zeman following the country's parliamentary elections in the village of Lany near Prague, Czech Republic October 23, 2017. Photo: Reuters

PRAGUE, Czech Republic - Populist billionaire Andrej Babis held difficult coalition talks on Monday despite his weekend election win, as potential partners appeared loath to form a government with the "Czech Trump".

Campaigning on an anti-corruption, anti-euro and anti-migrant ticket, Babis's ANO (Yes) movement won 78 of the 200 seats in parliament.

But none of the record nine parties that made it into parliament in the fragmented vote was willing to cooperate with ANO, which currently forms an outgoing coalition government led by the Social Democrats.

Josef Mlejnek, an analyst at Charles University in Prague, told AFP on Monday that "it will take him quite long (to form a coalition), because nothing's in sight for now." 

Babis said on Monday that he preferred a tie-up with the Civic Democrats that would command 103 seats in parliament, but the party has so far shown little willingness to even negotiate with ANO.

"Experience in government shows that the fewer partners, the better," said Babis, adding he would not seek a coalition with the Communists or the far-right SPD.

Babis has so far met the heads of the Social Democrats, the Communists, the Christian Democrats, the small STAN movement of independent municipal leaders and the far-right SPD.

Police charged Babis, the second wealthiest Czech, with EU subsidies fraud last month, related to his Stork Nest farm. 

Babis pulled it out of Agrofert, his sprawling chemicals, food and media holding, to make it eligible for an EU subsidy granted to small companies, but then eventually returned it to Agrofert. 

Police said Monday they would suspend prosecution after Babis regained immunity as a lawmaker in the election.

AFP

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