POLITICO: Ex-PM Babiš compared to Trump for attack on postal voting

Debate has been raging in the past week on introducing postal voting in Czechia – Babiš has said the system is a 'threat to democracy.'

Expats.cz Staff

Written by Expats.cz Staff Published on 29.01.2024 10:45:00 (updated on 29.01.2024) Reading time: 2 minutes

Global news outlet Politico has described former Czech Prime Minister and leader of the Czech opposition Andrej Babiš as taking “a leaf out of the [Donald] Trump playbook.” Like the ex-U.S. president, Babiš has vehemently attacked the idea of postal voting in recent Czech parliamentary debate.

In an ongoing discussion in the Czech Chamber of Deputies on introducing postal voting to Czech elections, the Babiš-led ANO movement has done its utmost to hinder the coalition’s attempts to give people the right from home and abroad. 

Warnings of 'rigged elections'

Babiš and his party cite concerns of potential voter fraud and name it a “threat to democracy.” If postal voting were to be introduced, around 600,000 Czechs living abroad could get the right to vote.

Often referred to as "the Czech Trump" due to his populist leanings and billionaire business empire, Babiš has echoed Trump's allegations of  "rigged" elections under postal voting and said that it is better for Czechs to “return home to vote” during elections. Babiš has also accused the government of wanting to simply obtain “new voters” in the next Czech general election, which is due late 2025.

Despite attempted filibusters and hours of heated debate, ANO – along with fellow opposition right-wing Freedom and Democracy (SPD) party – failed to prevent the government from passing the new draft bill on postal voting in its first reading last week. The Senate will need to review and approve the change before it becomes law.

The Czech Republic is currently one of the few countries in Europe that does not allow postal voting, alongside France, Croatia, Malta, and Iceland. Experts believe 100,000 Czech voters would actually use their postal vote, despite over half a million Czechs living permanently abroad.

Deploying Trumpian tactics

The opposition party's efforts have been met with criticism from political scientists, with some accusing them of using Trump-esque tactics to secure victory. "The symbolism in questioning the current government coalition and portraying it as an enemy of democracy is something we see in the U.S., and ANO takes inspiration from that," political scientist Ladislav Mrklas told Politico. 

"There is an obvious inspiration of Trump. ANO has in recent months radicalized its rhetoric," Mrklas added.

The issue has caused a reversal in ANO's stance, as it had previously promised to introduce postal voting as part of its election program. Now, the party is calling for a nationwide referendum to stop the government's initiative, as well as to discuss policies on accepting migrants, abolishing the right of veto in the EU, and potentially introducing the euro as currency. These issues are all expected to be major points of contention in the next general election.

The upcoming EU elections have also played a role in ANO's radicalization of rhetoric, as they compete with the SPD for votes. ANO's stance on these issues is expected to resonate with voters and shape the election campaign.

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