Mass protests won’t bring Babis down
The Czechs are stuck with their corrupt billionaire prime minister, said Petr Kambersky. Last week, some 120,000 people thronged Prague’s Wenceslas Square—the largest demonstration since the 1989 Velvet Revolution that toppled Communism—chanting “We are here!” and blowing whistles to demand the resignation of Andrej Babis. A Czech investigation has recommended the prime minister face trial for hiding his ownership of a farm and a convention center to illegally receive $2.3 million in European Union subsidies a decade ago. Worse, a leaked EU document shows that Brussels believes Babis has a conflict of interest, because even though he placed his huge agribusiness conglomerate into a trust, he is still being enriched by it: An audit found he had illegally received $19.3 million in EU subsidies over the past two years. Babis denies any wrongdoing, and the EU is mulling whether to demand that the Czech Republic pay back those funds. Yet although Babis is clearly in legal hot water, he isn’t in any political trouble. The prime minister started his centrist, Euroskeptic ANO Party in 2011 as a vanity project—it’s basically the Babis party, and none of its members will dare challenge him. And his voters still love him. The only way he will leave is if the EU forces him to choose between his power and his money. The money will surely win.