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Czech billionaire’s party ANO leads parliamentary elections

The leader of ANO party, Andrej Babis, speaks to the media after casting his vote in parliamentary elections in Prague, , October 20, 2017. (Photo by Reuters)

Results from 94.05 percent of polling stations in the Czech Republic’s parliamentary elections show the party of billionaire businessman Andrej Babis is leading the vote.
The results showed Saturday that the centrist ANO (YES) party won 30.21 percent of the vote, paving the way for the populist billionaire to become the next prime minister despite the allegations of fraud linked to EU subsidies.
They also showed a surprise surge for the far-right, anti-EU Freedom and Direct Democracy, which at 10.92 percent narrowly trailed center-right Civic Democrats at 10.97 percent.
Final results of balloting, which are being held to fill 200 seats in the country’s lower house of parliament, are expected late on Saturday.
Babis, the country’s second-richest man, opposes the EU’s quota system on redistributing refugees and setting a date for adopting the euro.
The 63-year-old Slovak-born tycoon has been charged with fraud over EU subsidies received by one of his companies.
Police claim that in 2007 Babis excluded the Stork Nest farm south of Prague from his sprawling Agrofert holding company to make it eligible for a two-million-euro ($2.35 billion) European Union subsidy for small companies.
After the five-year period for checking compliance with the funding conditions passed in 2013, Babis placed the farm back under Agrofert, which includes chemicals and food companies.
ANO emerged unscathed from a two-week crisis in May sparked by allegations of Babis’s questionable business dealings, which led to his ouster as finance minister.
Babis’s popularity has also stayed high despite claims he was an agent for the secret police during the Communist era in former Czechoslovakia.
Corruption has remained endemic in the country, an EU member, since its 1993 split with Slovakia.