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Andrej Babis Czech president asks PM to seek Communist, far-right support

After talks failed with the Social Democrats last week, Babis on Tuesday sought the guidance of President Milos Zeman, a veteran left-winger who is strongly pro-Russian, pro-Chinese and anti-Muslim.

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Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said he has been asked by the country's president to talk to the Communists and the far-right SPD party in his search for a viable government. play

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said he has been asked by the country's president to talk to the Communists and the far-right SPD party in his search for a viable government.

(AFP)

Billionaire Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said Tuesday the country's president had asked him to talk to the Communists and the far-right SPD party as he keeps looking for a viable government.

Babis's populist ANO (YES) movement won a general election last October, securing 78 seats in the 200-member parliament by campaigning on an anti-corruption ticket, but he has so far failed to put together a majority administration.

Babis came up with a minority government of ANO members and unaffiliated experts, but failed to win a confidence vote in parliament in January and the cabinet resigned. It will, however, remain in office until a new team is named.

Potential political partners have turned their backs on Babis, a food, chemicals and media tycoon who is facing criminal charges for alleged EU subsidy fraud. He is also dogged by allegations that he served as a Communist secret police agent before the Iron Curtain fell in 1989.

After talks failed with the Social Democrats last week, Babis on Tuesday sought the guidance of President Milos Zeman, a veteran left-winger who is strongly pro-Russian, pro-Chinese and anti-Muslim.

"The president has recommended to continue talks with the Communists and the SPD," Babis told reporters, adding that ANO leaders would meet on Thursday to discuss further steps.

Babis is likely to turn to the SPD and the Communists, who have a combined 37 seats in parliament, for informal support rather than an official coalition.

ANO lawmakers appeared to be torn over the idea on Tuesday, with some rejecting any ties with the far-right SPD, known for its strong anti-Muslim rhetoric.

Independent political analyst Jiri Pehe told AFP that Babis would have to beware of "the trap of a minority ANO cabinet supported by the Communists and the SPD," citing Babis's business interests in western Europe.

"The SPD has a very poor reputation, western media label it as a neo-Nazi party and that would be devastating for Babis's reputation abroad. I think he will do his best to avoid this option," Pehe added.

Slovak-born Babis is facing criminal charges over alleged 2007 EU subsidy fraud to the tune of two million euros ($2.5 million) linked to his sprawling Agrofert holding company.

He has flatly denied any wrongdoing, insisting the case is politically motivated.

Zeman, who was elected to a second five-year term in January, said he would meet Communist leader Vojtech Filip and SPD chief Tomio Okamura later this week.

He has two attempts to name a prime minister under the constitution, with the third going to the parliament speaker who is an ANO member.

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