All eyes on Czechia: World media comments on former PM's trial

As the Babiš trial heads into its third day, with his wife and daughter taking the stand, here's what commentators are saying worldwide.

ČTK

Written by ČTK Published on 14.09.2022 09:07:00 (updated on 14.09.2022) Reading time: 2 minutes

London/Berlin, Sept 13 (ČTK) - A number of major global media outlets are covering the trial of Czech ex-prime minister and ANO leader Andrej Babiš now heading into its third day, who is facing charges of subsidy fraud along with his former aide Jana Nagyová.

"The trial has opened of the Czech Republic’s former prime minister Andrej Babiš on charges of subsidy fraud, in a case that could profoundly affect the politics of the central European country," the British Guardian writes.

"Although he has not declared his candidacy [for president], Babiš has left the door open by touring the country in a camper van, making what analysts see as de facto campaign speeches staking out populist positions, including criticism of the Czech Republic’s military support for Ukraine and the acceptance of an estimated 400,000 refugees," the paper writes.

"Million Moments for Democracy, a campaign group that organized mass rallies demanding Babiš’s resignation when he was prime minister, ridiculed his presidential ambitions by installing a mock cell on a trailer outside the court, with a gold-plated toilet and golden duvet on a prison bed meant to signify the specter of a sitting president who had been convicted and jailed," it adds.

The German radio station Deutsche Welle warns that the Prague court has started dealing with the case of a suspected subsidy fraud in the construction of the Čapí Hnízdo (Stork's Nest) center "shortly before the presidential election planned for early 2023, in which, as expected, Babiš will be a strong candidate, although he has not yet announced his bid."

On the first day of the trial, Babiš and Nagyová pleaded not guilty. Babiš said the charges were politically motivated and dismissed the indictment as false, untrue, and unsubstantiated.

Bloomberg also commented on the case, warning that the start of the trial was preceded by a long investigation of whether a firm connected with Babiš's holding Agrofert fraudulently gained European subsidies valued at CZK 50 million.

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"Babiš rose to power by attacking traditional politicians as corrupt and incompetent. As prime minister, he adopted an anti-migrant agenda and became one of the closest allies of Hungarian nationalist leader Viktor Orban," Bloomberg writes.

"While his party, ANO, holds a wide lead in opinion polls, Babiš is contemplating whether to run for the presidency in an election in January. Surveys show he would most likely advance to the second round but could struggle in the run-off. Babiš said he may announce his decision on the presidential bid next month," the publication added.

It is not yet clear whether the verdict might be meted out before the first round of the presidential election. Judge Jan Šott has said the length of the trial can't be predicted now but will depend on the development of the presentation of evidence, availability of witnesses, and a number of other factors.

The Tagesschau program on German public television station ARD says the Stork Nest case is "just one of the scandals surrounding Babiš."

"Babiš is also a target of repeated protests, the biggest since the Velvet Revolution [that ousted the Communist regime in 1989]," Tagesschau writes.

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