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Democracy in action? MPs turn on Finance Minister (and possibly next Czech leader)

Andrej Babiš. Photo: Wikicommons

Parliament today passed the cynically nicknamed “Lex Babiš.”


Prague – The Czech lower house today passed a law that would ban members of parliament from owning media – a law many view as directly aimed at business baron, deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Andrej Babiš.

Babiš, who is viewed as the most likely next leader of the Republic, his ANO party expected to secure a sweeping victory, is also the second richest person in the Czech Republic.

The tycoon‘s vast assets include a large media portfolio, MAFRA, which includes Blesk, Lidove noviny, MF Dnes, and METRO Ceska on the print side and iDnes.cz and lidovky.cz on the online side. The MAFRA group also includes music channel Óčko. He also owns conglomerate Agrofert.

His wealth is estimated at US$2.2 billion according to the Bloomberg Billionaires index.

The Conflict of Interest Law was colloquially dubbed “Lex Babiš” for its obvious targeting of the filthy rich media baron Babiš.

The law also prevents parliamentarians from owning more than 25% of a company and restricts parliamentarian-owned companies from receiving state-subsidies or investment aid.

“The oligarchs will have to make a choice: to be in the government or get subsidies, public contracts and media ownership,” Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka tweeted, shortly after the Chamber of Deputies, or lower house, passed the law.

Babiš was not so thrilled with the results and has until next year to either divest his media portfolio or get out of politics, which is unlikely given his rising popularity in pre-election polls.

“They are desperate, [and] do not know how the world works,” Babiš was reported as saying after the vote. We guess he had a few other things not suitable for publication to say as well.

The largely divided lower house showed unprecedented unanimity in voting for “Lex Babiš.” The law still needs to be signed by the President before becoming effective, but the move shows the gloves are off for campaign season. Grab your popcorn everyone.

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