PRAGUE, Oct. 22 (Xinhua) - Even as short a time as a month ago, the Czech elections to be held in less just a few days seemed to be a foregone conclusion.
Voters were set to punish the right side of politics for its scandals, corruption and the austerity that has kept the Czech economy from growing.
The left-wing parties, particularly the Social Democratic party (CSSD), were on the verge of taking government with a sizeable majority. Recent opinion polls have called that into question however, largely due to the meteoric rise of the ANO movement, led by Slovak-born businessman Andrej Babis, which has been peeling away votes from both sides.
Mr. Babis, the second-richest Czech, with an estimated fortune of 40 billion Czech crowns (approximately 2.12 billion U.S. dollars), has long been a controversial figure in Czech society. A former member of the Communist party, accused of having been a member of the StB, the reviled Czechoslovak intelligence agency.
Mr Babis has been in the Slovak courts fighting the release of documents relating to his Communist past, from where they are held at the Institute of the National Memory (UPN). While their release is inevitable, they could be potentially damaging so close to the election, just when his movement is cruising into second place in the opinion polls.
ANO has undertaken an American-style campaign, flooding the airwaves, billboards and metro stations with every kind of advertisement imaginable. It is high in rhetoric and low in actual policy; while many of its aims are admirable, there is very little indication of how it will achieve them.
Mr Babis's performance in the debates has been mediocre, with little substance and less charisma. The other parties have finally realized the threat the party is making to them, as it is peeling votes away from all sides of politics, and the attacks on ANO have increased. This all could result in a disappointing election-day result for ANO, though it is almost sure to make it into the next parliament, it could be with far less power than its leaders are hoping for.
Czechs seem to have short memories: a similar campaign was undertaken in 2010, leading to the Public Affairs party (VV) not only finding itself in parliament, but also in government, which was an unmitigated disaster, leading to it being thrown out of the coalition in 2012. This party has fractured and collapsed under its own weight, and has no chance of making it into the next parliament. VV's contribution to Czech politics seems like nothing more than a bad dream. Whether ANO will manage to have more success remains to be seen.
Mr. Babis is well-known for his dictatorial management style, which has served him well in business, but may be less than successful in politics, particularly in a parliament with proportional representation, as compromise is the key to getting any law passed. There would be a possibility of ANO joining a governing coalition, most likely with the Social Democrats.