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On the last days of the campaign, his son and his own future

Fast Confession – the Prime Minister of Czech Republic Andrej Babiš: our Movement's fail in elections would mean the end in politics for me

Karolína Lišková
01.Oct 2021
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9 minutes

We last interviewed the Prime Minister before the holidays. He was in a very good, pre-election fighting mood. However, given his summer activities, which had kept him away from taking any rest, he did not greet us in a good mood in September. He was tired, signing his books in his office until evening. Yet, although he did not sparkle with wit and arguments as usual, it was clear that he still stands his ground and will go into the elections with his typical vigour.

Babiš se psem.
Babiš s voliči.
Babiš se Sebastianem Kurzem.

Mr Prime Minister, how do you feel less than a month before the election?

It's challenging because we are in the final stages of the campaign. I don't even have Saturdays off, on Sundays I'm filming "Čau, lidi" ("Hi, folks", PM's short talks on his current activities), I have meetings, so I'm working round the clock.

Last time I saw you, it was before the holidays. You were sparkling with fervour and energy back then and now I can really see that you're tired.

It's also a quarter to six PM. I get up at 5:30 in the morning and of course, I have countless appointments during the day. I work 16 hours a day, so there's no wonder.

When I look around your office, I see boxes of your book everywhere. Are those reprints?

No, they're not. I sign them. When I have time, that is.

How many copies in total?

There were 300,000 copies.

And how many were given away so far?

I don't know, but it must be in the tens of thousands.

However, I'm fascinated that you're signing all of these with your own hand. Why do you do that?

Well, people want a signature. A colleague told me I've already signed 25,000 books.

I'd probably hire someone to do that for me. You know how we learned to forge a parent's signature in school...

No, no, we can't do it like that (laughs).

I'd like to go back to the events of the last few days. When you had your first autograph session in Průhonice, you've had eggs flying at you.

I think there were two of them.

How does it feel to have an egg thrown at you? What goes through your mind?

Well, it didn't come as such a surprise to me. I wanted to stay there, but of course, security intervened immediately and insisted that I had to leave.

How many security guards do you have?

There are two drivers and three security guards.

If I imagine myself in your position, I wonder if they tell you which route to take, where not to go, etc.?

No, they don't.

Prodej luxusního bytu 2+kk, 98 m2 s terasou
Prodej luxusního bytu 2+kk, 98 m2 s terasou, Praha 4

They don't interfere with your life and work? Do you even know they're there?

Of course, I know about them, but they don't interfere with anything. They're great professionals. I feel safe with them, that's why I wanted to stay in Průhonice, I don't mind eggs.

I mean, do they consult with you where to go, what the risks are?

If there are some people who want to demonstrate or express their disagreement with me somewhere we're going, they tell me ahead of time.

Does that concern you?

It doesn't. What's new in this election is that even rival parties are now coming out to picket against us. That hasn't happened before. There were protestors that were probably sent by rival parties, but it wasn't as open as it is now, where sometimes the Pirates come and protest, then STAN sends its candidate there. Last time there was a lady from ODS, who is running, holding some kind of sign against me. So this is new.

And it still hasn't affected your psyche?

Of course, it's not pleasant, but what can I do now? I've gotten used to a lot of things. We're a few days away from the election, so let's get it over with.

Now the election debates will start...

I'll be attending them, even though it's not an activity I seek out.

The thing is, I believe it has to be very time-consuming, but also mentally demanding.

Well, it's obviously difficult when people deliberately tell untruths. And it's hard not to react to it. And then you know how I feel about politicians blabbing. As the Prime Minister, I'm really busy, and I can get a lot done in two hours.

Debates have a time limit. Is there a time limit set in advance for how long you can answer, oppose?

That is controlled by the moderator, who either gives or takes the floor. Each debate is different.

Do you train for them ahead of time?

I don't, there's nothing to train for.

What do you think they'll reproach you for?

They keep blaming us for things we had nothing to do with. Like the fact that there is inflation, which is everywhere in the world, and it is the responsibility of the Czech National Bank. Or that the public finances are not good, which is not true. We have one of the best public finances in Europe; we have the sixth-lowest debt-to-GDP ratio of the 27 EU countries, we have lower debt than Germany or Austria. I also get blamed for the COVID. Of course, that's not our fault either; we refuse that, the COVID has just been exploited politically instead of all of us pulling together. Of course, this suited the Pirates because their preferences were rising. They admitted this themselves in an interview where Mr Ferjenčík regretted how their preferences had fallen after the pandemic situation had improved.

You mentioned the coronavirus again. A lot of hospitals all over the world are already preparing for the next wave. Is the Czech Republic planning any measures?

But we are ready. We have learnt from last year, and we are not going to take any blanket measures. Our healthcare system is robust, we have achieved that. We're just appealing for more people to get vaccinated, because vaccination is the only way to protect yourself from COVID. Those who are vaccinated are ten times less likely to end up in the ICU.

So can you promise me there won't be a lockdown, no more closings?

There's not the slightest reason for that. The numbers look good. It's flaring up in other countries, but it's a different situation. The numbers of infected people in hospitals are minimal, and it's mostly the unvaccinated. When the flu was here, basically nobody talked about it, yet there were people in hospitals too and unfortunately, some of them died, but it was not a topic for debate at all.

With COVID it has become a topic, but we are in a completely different situation, so we need as many people as possible to be vaccinated, and of course, this remains voluntary. But mainly we would need to vaccinate older people who are not all vaccinated. Some of them would like to be vaccinated, but they are afraid of it. That's the role for their general practitioners as well and maybe families or other people around them. These are not the people who are principally against vaccination based on various nonsensical arguments.

Luxusní vila na prodej, Dolní Měcholupy - 616m
Luxusní vila na prodej, Dolní Měcholupy - 616m, Praha 10

Can I ask you one more question? The encounter with your son that went through the media, what was that about?

It would be painful for any parent, so I don't want to comment too much on that, I'm sorry.

It's one thing to talk something over through the media, but still, as a father and son, if you picked up the phone, you'd go out for coffee, to dinner, you could work it out together. There's a chance for that discussion; you can't just stay angry with each other like that?

It's not just about arguing. It's a thing of certain medical history. I like Andy, and I'm sorry that some people have no qualms about using him like this for their own political goals. Politics is a harsh field, but where everyone should draw the imaginary line is bringing family into it.

He is an adult after all and will probably do what he wants. But is he going to address it somehow? Or do you have information on whether he's managing his medical condition?

No, I don't have the information. I'm appalled at the crowd that's sprung up around him. These people are having some kind of effect on him that's not positive.

It actually makes me sad just from seeing the confrontation in the media, it just has to be something really awful.

It's really bad for a dad. I'm so sorry.

I'm going to steer in a different direction for now, we'll do a bit of the lifestyle interview that I'm trying to do with you, even though it's still been about politics until now. You said that if you didn't win the election, you're done with politics, and if you're out of politics, what are you going to do? How are you going to enjoy yourself?

I haven't thought about that. I'm a hardworking person, so I'm sure I'll do something again, but I'll take some time off. Maybe I'll get up at 8:00 AM during the week. I'll spend more time with my family. I'm gonna take our dogs for a long walk.

I'm also interested – well, a lot of, let's say, fashion gurus watch politicians who appear on TV, what they're wearing. You always wear a great fitting suit, where do you shop or who makes them for you?

It's not like that. I used to be a size 52 and by putting on weight I've now gone up to a 54. But I was also a size 56 before and I've lost weight again, so it's kind of complicated.

Do you prefer bow ties or ties?

I don't wear bow ties. I only wear them with a tux or tails, otherwise I wear ties.

Does your wife give you clothing advice, like when you're appearing on TV?

Yes, definitely, she tells me what's in and what's out. Of course, she knows all about it. Thank God we men have it much easier than you.

And does she just tell you or does she prepare your clothes and shop for you?

She shops too, but not for suits. These we shop for together. But other clothes, such as sweaters or leisurewear, she buys that for me.

When we talked about vacation in June, you said you couldn't go. Do you have one planned for after the election? Has the missus arranged any relaxation for you yet?

I haven't been to the seaside yet this year, so I'd like to go to the sea, of course. But we'll see how it all turns out. I can't afford to plan that far ahead yet. My wife doesn't restrict herself, of course. She goes with the children or on her own... I can't and won't forbid her that. I'd like to go with them myself, but politics comes first now.

But I'm sure she wants to go with you as well.

Yeah, but we'll see what happens after the election, I can't plan now.

It must be a very difficult life with you...

Well, it's tough...

How's the construction of the cancer centre you're planning in Prague going?

We are preparing the National Plan Against Cancer, and we have managed to bring 50 billion from the EU for the Czech health system. Cancer will be a big problem by 2035 and there is no vaccine for it. I keep dealing with it in my circle, and I'm trying to help people too. In the long term, cancer is said to be the biggest cause of death in Europe and in this country, so that is why we have to pay attention to it and have state-of-the-art centres, science and research. We have great doctors, but we must also have the facilities to do this, and that is why we want to build the same cancer hospital in Prague as the Masaryk Cancer Institute in Brno on Žlutý Kopec is. This centre will then serve citizens from all over the Czech Republic.

I meant whether it's gaining some outlines already.

Well, it's being prepared, there is some progress, but it will be a long time coming, of course. Unfortunately, because of the COVID, we didn't get as much done as we wanted to. But at least we got it going.

Why are you so down still, when you keep telling people about all those achievements of yours in your talks?

I'm not down, I'm tired. I told you what time I got up today. Honestly, I think the Czech Republic is going through its best period since the revolution and people can see that. They see it in pensions and incomes. They see it in investment, in motorways, monuments getting repaired, in education, etc. They see that we are a safe country here, we are not going to allow illegal migration. The ANO movement has concrete results. And it would be good to keep it that way. We are clear, legible and people know what they can and cannot expect from us. We are not a disparate coalition arguing about what to do right up until the elections. Can you imagine what it would look like if they were in government when the only thing they can agree on is Anti-Babiš? That's why I think the ANO movement should be in government. But of course, it's up to the people.

Even though, of course, many people dislike and hate me for various reasons, very often completely untrue, there are many other people in the movement who have results, and our government has got very concrete results. For example, we are fighting for Czech national interests in Europe, for our sovereignty and for our standard of living.

You just mentioned illegal migration, however, this is the main point of the SPD programme...

My book starts with migration. I stopped the mandatory migration quotas together with Viktor Orbán.

But what do you think now, considering what is happening in Afghanistan? Will it have an impact on Europe, on us?

People have migrated from Afghanistan before, but of course, we need to fight illegal migration and traffickers. There may be an opportunity to negotiate directly with Afghanistan now, so that these people stay, not flee, because there is simply no place for them in Europe.

Thank you very much for the interview.

Fast confession:

Is there anything you would praise the Pirates for?

I can't think of anything, sorry.

A weakness of your campaign?

The fact that I don't have much time to do it, I don't even do it much, the government has an awful lot of work to do on vaccinations and getting kids back to school, getting us all back on track, the budget... so the campaign is time constrained.

The response to your last book in one sentence?

There's a lot of interest in it; I'm happy that people are coming to the book signings.

What's your message to your son?

The whole family is concerned about his health. When we see the people around him, it worries us.

What was the last thing you bought your wife just to make her happy?

I usually buy her a bouquet of roses.

The most amazing thing about South Moravia?

The people, they're so warm-hearted, it's a great place to live.

If you weren't defending the premiership, what would be the first thing you'd do?

It's not about defending the post of Prime Minister; it's about who wins the election and that's what the Movement is running for. Of course, if we don't succeed, that technically means the politics is over for me.

What kind of woman could you imagine as President of the Czech Republic?

There are already an awful lot of candidates, there even are some women. I don't want to hypothesize too much. The election is still relatively far away.

If your daughter wanted to marry a black man, what would be your reaction?

I'm sure if she liked him, I wouldn't interfere.

What was the last meal you really enjoyed?

I love hash browns.

Which animal best describes you?

I don't know, that's a tough question.

How would you describe the meaning of the word love?

It's an expression of feelings and it so happens that between two people one has, let's say, a different approach to love that may not be reciprocated. That's a topic for debate.

Was joining the EU a good step yes or no?

Yes, we are an export country. 87 per cent of our exports go to EU markets. The Schengen area - we can travel. We get thousands of billions.

Where in the world have you seen the most beautiful sunset?

In Safaga, a long time ago. Over the Red Sea.
The interviewee asks the editor:

Do you agree with me that the Czech Republic is the best place to live in Europe?

I definitely agree.
I'm glad.
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Rychlá zpověď - předseda SPD Tomio Okamura:
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Rychlá zpověď - šéf Pirátů Ivan Bartoš:
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