Reeling From a Family Drama, Czech PM Babis Courts the Political Extremes

Reeling From a Family Drama, Czech PM Babis Courts the Political Extremes
Andrej Babis, prime minister of the Czech Republic, addresses lawmakers during a parliamentary session in Prague, Nov. 23, 2018 (AP photo by Petr David Josek).

PRAGUE—A billionaire with a short fuse, a dim view of the democratic process and a long list of suspicious business dealings, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis now looks set to head further toward the populist margins ever since his son claimed to have been kidnapped on Babis’ orders.

On Nov. 23, the minority coalition government led by Babis’ ANO party narrowly defeated a no-confidence vote in the Czech parliament. The vote followed media reports in which Andrej Babis Jr. claimed he had been forced to travel to Crimea in order to prevent him from testifying in a fraud case against his father involving 2 million euros, or roughly $2.2 million, in European Union subsidies for a resort called Stork’s Nest.

If this was a TV script, such Shakespearean drama would feel overwrought. The elder Babis says his son is mentally ill and was taken to the annexed Ukrainian territory by the Russian husband of his son’s attending psychiatrist. The kidnapping story, he insists, is just another attack by the Czech political elite in retaliation for his own work in ousting their corrupt rule.

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