EXPLAINED: How Ex-PM Andrej Babiš landed in hot water after hitting 'send'

The leader of the opposition sent an e-mail – to the wrong recipient – asking to dig up dirt on current Foreign Affairs Minister Jan Lipavský.

Thomas Smith

Written by Thomas Smith Published on 13.03.2024 11:22:00 (updated on 13.03.2024) Reading time: 3 minutes

After an e-mail leak that showed leader of the opposition former Prime Minister Andrej Babiš seeking sensitive information about Czechia’s foreign minister, coalition leaders have agreed to convene an emergency meeting in the Chamber of Deputies to discuss Babiš’ actions.

The context

Over the weekend, Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský said in a televised interview that Babiš posed a “security threat” to Czechia.

In response, Babiš wrote an e-mail to an associate that read: "Make me a draft, a dossier, on this f*cker. Write me a story of Israel, how he left our people in the lurch, how he was in Doha, going everywhere, campaigning, [the] postal vote," Czech media outlet Novinky.cz revealed in an exposé. The ANO leader also asked whether Lipavský had children.

Babiš was referring to his past criticisms of Lipavský allegedly not doing enough to rescue Czechs stranded in invaded Israel in October last year, focusing instead on other diplomatic and political matters.

Check before you hit 'send'

Babiš’ crucial mistake, though, was that he sent the e-mail to the wrong person. He was meant to send it to his adviser, Jan Rovenský. Instead, he sent it to Rovenský’s namesake – an environmental committee member in the town of Litvínov, also representing ANO.

The minister said he felt obliged to make the e-mail public due to references to Lipavský’s children.

Comparison with communist Sate Security

After Rovenský publicized the contents of Babiš’ e-mail, Czech senior ministers rounded on the former prime minister, making parallels with methods used by the communist State Security (ŠtB) in Czechoslovakia. “I am disgusted by its [the e-mail’s] content…It is a big challenge for Czech society to reject ŠtB methods in politics once and for all,” remarked Lipavský soon after the e-mail was made public.

“He is an ŠtB member who does not change his practices, but unfortunately, Babiš has this as his style of work,” responded Minister of Labor Marian Jurečka on social media site X, referring to long-term allegations that Babiš worked for the ŠtB pre-1990, which the ex-prime minister vehemently denies.

“It is disgusting to drag the children and wives of your opponents into a political fight, just as it is disgusting to make inflammatory files against your political rivals."

Minister of Regional Development Ivan Bartoš

Interior Minister Vít Rakušan stated Tuesday: “Babiš' attempt to use information about his political opponents' privacy, including information about their minor children, is extremely heinous. Our emergency meeting is to make clear that we do not intend to condone and normalize such behavior.”

In 2021, Rakušan indirectly accused Babiš of collecting sensitive information on him and conducting surveillance on opposition political figures. Babiš denies this.

Babiš downplays the issue

Babiš publicly apologized for using a defamatory term against Lipavský in the e-mail. However, he refuted claims that he had been seeking sensitive or compromising information on his political opponent. “I hate to respond to a stolen private conversation…but these are documents from public sources. I wanted to respond to Lipavský’s lies and ask him a simple question – whether he would send his children to war. I wouldn't. That's why I was interested," he said.

The ex-prime minister has long accused the government of being too heavily involved in the Russia-Ukraine war in terms of funding and helping militarily. “Everyone here is talking about war and sending our troops to Ukraine…people are getting poorer in this country, the government can't run the country, but now we have to focus on one e-mail,” also complained Babiš.

Coalition leaders will meet this Tuesday next week and decide on the next course of action.

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