Speed Reads

Nationalism in Europe

Czech Republic elects billionaire nationalist skeptical of the EU, immigration

Over the weekend, Czech voters gave a resounding victory to billionaire Andrej Babis and his ANO party, handing the nationalist party 78 seats in the 200-seat Parliament. Babis, the Czech Republic's second-wealthiest man, will now try to form a government coalition with some of the other eight parties that won seats. The surprise second-place finisher, the Civic Democrats (25 seats), similarly don't want the country to adopt the euro currency, but have ruled out governing in coalition with ANO. In third place, with 22 seats each, are the Pirate party and the anti-Muslim far-right SPD party. The former ruling Social Democrats and the Communist are in sixth place, with 15 votes each.

The results are seen as another blow to the European Union, after recent gains by far-right parties in Austria and Germany, and nationalist toeholds elsewhere in Europe. "This has become a general trend — we've seen it in the Dutch elections, in France, in Germany," Vit Dostal, director of the AMO think tank AMO in Prague, tells Bloomberg. "This phenomenon, the rise of anti-establishment parties, shows that there's a widening gap between the winners and losers of globalization. And that in turn generates negative sentiment toward the EU, which is seen as the embodiment of globalization."

Babis, who was charged with criminal fraud before the vote (and now has parliamentary immunity), isn't expected to be as virulently anti-EU as some other of the new nationalist leaders. "He knows how important the EU is for the Czech economy," says Judy Dempsey at Carnegie Europe. "It wouldn't serve his interests."