2021 was supposed to be the year that the Czech Republic’s billionaire populist Prime Minister, Andrej Babiš, finally came a cropper. Dogged by corruption allegations, fending off prosecution and under persistent fire from the EU conflicts-of-interests, the oligarch-turned-politician’s ham-fisted handling of the covid crisis caught up with him. Having bragged that early success controlling the pandemic made Czechs and Central Europeans ‘best in Covid’ – and trumpeted his own skills as a political crisis manager – by March this year Babiš was presiding over a country with the worst infection rates in the world, with his government’s record slated by experts and medical professionals.
But just days before parliamentary elections on October 8-9, and despite the bombshell Pandora Papers revelations about his use of offshore companies to buy property on the French Riviera, the populist billionaire seems to have every chance of hanging on – and the outcome of the elections is uncertain. (more…)