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Czech populist billionaire Babis promises to run for president WGN 720 Radio

PRAGUE (AP) — Billionaire populist Andrei Babis has announced his intention to run for the largely ceremonial post of Czech president.

Babis, a controversial former prime minister, made his announcement on Sunday night on television. He said that his only goal is “for people to have a better life.”

Babis spoke after meeting with his ally, President Milos Zeman, whose second and final term ends in January.

The first round of presidential elections is scheduled for January 13-14. The second round between the two leaders will take place in two weeks.

Babis is currently facing trial in a $2 million fraud case involving European Union subsidies.

The case concerns a farm known as the “Stork’s Nest”, which received EU subsidies after ownership was transferred from the Babis-owned conglomerate Agrofert, which has around 250 companies, to members of the Babis family. Later, “Agrafert” again became the property of the farm.

Subsidies were intended for medium and small businesses, and “Agrafert” could not apply for them. Later, “Agrafert” returned the subsidy.

It is not yet known when to wait for the verdict.

Babis denies his guilt and has repeatedly stated that the charges against him are politically motivated.

Babis’s centrist ANO movement burst into Czech politics in 2013, surprisingly coming second in parliamentary elections with an anti-corruption message and becoming a junior partner in government with Babis as finance minister. Four years later, he won the election and became prime minister.

A quarter of a million people took to the streets twice in 2019 – the largest such demonstrations since the anti-communist Velvet Revolution of 1989 – to demand Babis’ resignation over his scandals, including a conflict of interest over EU subsidies linked to his former business . empire.

Last October, Babis’ movement lost the parliamentary elections. A coalition of five parties formed a new government, and ANO found itself in opposition.

Before the election, he was hit by another scandal that linked him and hundreds of other wealthy people to offshore accounts in the findings of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, dubbed the Pandora Papers.

Babish denies his guilt.

The Slovak-born Babis is also accused in Slovakia of collaborating with the communist-era secret police in Czechoslovakia before the anti-communist Velvet Revolution of 1989. He also denies it.

Babis will be one of the favorites in the presidential elections, together with the former chairman of the NATO military committee, army general Piotr Pavel, and the former rector of the university, Danuse Nerudava.


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