‘Czech Trump’ clinches wide lead in election

Czech prime minister and social democrate Bohuslav Sobotka arrives at the residence of Czech Social Democratic Party after the first election results were announced, on Saturday, October 21, 2017 in Prague. The party of billionaire populist Andrej Babis, The "Czech Trump", took an early lead in the Czech Republic's general election followed by a far-right anti-EU party, partial results showed. (AFP)
Updated 21 October 2017
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‘Czech Trump’ clinches wide lead in election

PRAGUE: With voters upset over traditional parties and orders from Brussels, a billionaire populist dubbed the “Czech Trump” has taken a huge lead in the Czech Republic’s election followed by an anti-EU and anti-Islam party with links to France’s National Front.
State election officials citing results from nearly 73 percent of polling stations said Babis’ anti-corruption and anti-euro ANO (Yes) movement was ahead with 30.87 percent support with the far-right Freedom and Free Democracy (SPD) in second place on 11.19 percent.
The euroskeptic right-wing ODS party has clinched the third spot with 10.51 percent and the anti-establishment Pirates scored 10.04 percent.
Despite the country’s economic success, analysts say many Czechs who are heavily in debt or working long hours for low wages feel they have been left behind and are turning to populist parties to vent their ire.
Far-right and far-left anti-EU parties made gains in a fragmented vote that appeared to put eight parties into the 200-seat Czech Parliament with few natural coalition allies among them, something analysts warn could herald instability and even chaos.
The Social Democrats (CSSD) who head the outgoing coalition government took a bruising, coming in sixth with 7.67 percent of the vote.
Voting earlier on Saturday, outgoing Social Democrats (CSSD) Prime Minister Sobotka warned the election “will decide about our country’s focus, whether we stay part of the EU and NATO, or whether extremist forces trying to drive us out of these structures will post gains.”
The far-right SPD of Tokyo-born entrepreneur Tomio Okamura made the strongest gains clinching the second spot on strong anti-EU, anti-migrant and anti-Islam rhetoric, similar to surging far-right parties in neighboring Austria and Germany.
France’s far-right National Front Marine Le Pen sent Okamura a message of support.
“I see this as a threat to liberal democracy” in this EU member of 10.6 million people, Tomas Lebeda, a political analyst at Palacky University in the central city of Olomouc, told AFP.
“The SPD is a clearly an anti-system, populist party. It seems this type of party will score its best-ever result in Czech history,” he said, but added that the SPD was unlikely to enter the future government
Voting in a Prague suburb, pensioner Zdenek Kraml favored the left-wing Social Democrats, currently in a rocky center-left coalition with Babis’ ANO and the smaller centrist Christian Democrats.
“In the four years since the last election, pensions have gone up, just like wages and welfare benefits,” he told AFP.
With unemployment at 3.8 percent in September, the Czech economy, which is heavily reliant on car exports, is slated to grow by a healthy 3.6 percent this year.
But other voters did not conceal their disillusionment.
Young Prague voter Jiri Chaloupek said he chose the SPD as “this country needs a change, a rather radical change.”
Analyst Lebeda said: “We have a very strange atmosphere with a number of emotions that absolutely do not correspond to the social and economic reality.”
“I’m asking myself what the elections would look like if we weren’t in such good shape economically.”
A 63-year-old Slovak-born chemicals, food and media tycoon, Babis said he expected the Czech Republic to “enter a new stage” after voting on Friday, adding it needed “a government which will really tackle people’s problems.”
While the billionaire-politician has vowed to steer clear of the euro zone and echoes other eastern EU leaders who accuse Brussels of attempting to limit national sovereignty by imposing rules like migrant quotas, he favors a united Europe and balks at talk of a “Czexit.”
Babis’ main rival, Social Democrats leader and Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek has said he hoped that the future government would ensure that the Czech Republic does not drift to the EU’s periphery.
Partial results showed the anti-EU Communists took the fifth spot winning 8.51 percent support.


‘No-deal’ Brexit would hit trucks, airlines and pet owners — govt papers

Updated 9 min 22 sec ago
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‘No-deal’ Brexit would hit trucks, airlines and pet owners — govt papers

  • Many business chiefs and investors fear politics could scupper an agreement
  • Without a deal, the UK would move to customs arrangements set by the WTO for external states with no preferential deals

LONDON: Leaving the European Union without a proper divorce deal could ground airlines, stop hauliers from lugging goods to the world’s biggest trading bloc and even make headaches for pet owners who want to take their dogs on holiday, according to government documents.
With just six months to go until the United Kingdom is due to leave the EU on March 29, Prime Minister Theresa May has warned that negotiations are at an impasse and that the EU must come up with new proposals on how to craft a divorce settlement.
Many business chiefs and investors fear politics could scupper an agreement, thrusting the world’s fifth largest economy into a “no-deal” Brexit that they say would spook financial markets and silt up the arteries of trade.
Britain, which has warned it could leave without a deal, published 25 technical notices on Monday covering everything from commercial road haulage and buying timber to airline regulations and taking pets abroad.
“If the UK leaves the EU in March 2019 with no agreement in place, UK and EU licensed airlines would lose the automatic right to operate air services between the UK and the EU without seeking advance permission,” the government said.
Overall, the government has published more than 65 such notices giving a glimpse of what a no-deal Brexit — the nightmare scenario for chief executives of most multinationals operating in Britain — would look like.
Amid warnings that trucks could stack up on both sides of the English Channel in the confusion of a no deal, Britain said it would seek to strike bilateral agreements with European countries to ensure hauliers would retain access.
The notices covered a vast swathe of the British economy, warning, for example, that labels on packaged food would have to be changed.
“Use of the term ‘EU’ in origin labelling would no longer be correct for food or ingredients from the UK,” the government said.
Honey producers would have to change their labels while EU countries might not accept British mineral water, the government said.
In the worse case scenario for pet owners, dogs, cats and even ferrets might need health certificates and rabies jabs. Travel plans would have to be discussed with a vet at least four months in advance before traveling to the EU.
That would mean someone wanting to take their pet to the EU on March 30, 2019, the day after Britain leaves the bloc, would have to discuss the trip with a vet before the end of November.
Without a deal, the UK would move from seamless trade with the rest of the EU to customs arrangements set by the World Trade Organization for external states with no preferential deals.
Brexiteers accept there is likely to be some short-term economic pain but say the government is trying to scare voters about the impact of a no-deal Brexit.
Britain, many Brexiteers say, will thrive in the longer term if cut loose from what they see as a doomed experiment in German-dominated unity and excessive debt-funded welfare spending.