Saturday 21 October 2017

"Populist billionaire" poised to win Czech election

What's in a headline?

That's an interesting form of words, and when you click into the BBC News article and read its opening paragraph you find that Mr Babis isn't just a "billionaire"; no, he's "a populist billionaire". (Remind you of anyone?)

The second paragraph of the article focuses exclusively on his wealth, and questions about his questionable past dominate the rest of the article. 

I'm not getting a very positive vibe from the BBC about Andrej Babis here.

In passing we learn that his platform is (in the BBC words) "anti-establishment, anti-EU and anti-corruption". 

Had he been 'pro-establishment, pro-EU and anti-corruption' would the report have been quite as negative about him?

Update, 5.30pm: Breaking news....

Yes, "populist billionaire" Andrej Babis has won the Czech Republic's general election. "Particularly noteworthy" though, the BBC says, is the strong performance of the SPD (Freedom and Free Democracy party) "as the far-right party wants to ban Islam in the Czech Republic".

(I pass this onto you as the BBC website isn't reporting this prominently yet).

Further update: A BBC News Channel discussion between Julian Worricker and Rob Cameron this afternoon saw further labels flying.

Again, Mr Babis was was "the billionaire Mr Babis", "the populist Mr Babis" and "the Czech Trump". The SPD here were the "virulently nationalist, xenophobic, Eurosceptic SPD party led, believe it or not, by a half-Czech, half-Japanese businessman."

Yet another update (22/10): Here's a transcript showing how BBC World News (and, therefore, BBC One) were reporting the results overnight:

BBC newsreader: A billionaire businessman in the Czech Republic has scored a convincing victory in elections to the lower house of parliament. Andrej Babis, the country's second richest man, emerged with 30% of the vote - not enough to govern alone but far ahead of his rivals. A far-right Islamophobic party also made strong gains while liberal, pro-European parties faltered. Rob Cameron has more from Prague. 
Rob Cameron: This is what success looks like for a man who has already tasted so much of it. His business empire controls much of Czech agriculture, chemicals, and the media. Now, he has set his sights much higher. After almost four years at the finance ministry, the Slovak-born business tycoon is on the brink of becoming prime minister. It was a result few had predicted. Andrej Babis's prospects had dimmed in recent months after a string of scandals - two separate criminal investigations into claims he fraudulently obtained EU funds for a luxury resort. He said all of that was a campaign against him, a political witch-hunt by an establishment terrified of his pledge to clean up corruption. "Trust me," he said, and the voters believed him. Populist, mildly eurosceptic, and hostile to immigration despite his non-Czech origins, he has left the established centre-left and centre-right parties in tatters. Instead, a host of new protest parties, including the far-right SPD. They want to ban Islam in the Czech Republic, and also hold a referendum on leaving the European Union. They are unlikely to get one. But attitudes hardening here to the EU, and to migrants, and Andrej Babis has tapped into them

The final results, if you were wondering, look like this:

ANO (centre/centre-right) - 29.6% (up 11%)
ODS (centre-right/right) - 11.3% (up 3.6%)
Pirates (centre) - 10.8% (up 8.1%)
SPD (right/far-right) - 10.6% (up 10.6%)
KSCM (communist) - 7.8% (down 7.2%)
CSSD (centre-left) - 7.3% (down 13.1%)
KDU/CSL (centre-right) - 5.8% (down 1.0%)
TOP 09 (centre-right) - 5.3% (down 6.7%) 
STAN (centre-right) - 5.2% (up 5.2%)


  1. Babis is painted as a bad dude.

    "If his party secures a majority, it is not known who Mr Babis will seek to form a government with." from strikes me as odd unless the writer was so wrapped up in sign posting 'Babis bad' that they let their proof reading slip?

  2. Somewhat off topic, but not entirely since populism is mentioned, but...

    I have been very critical of the BBC Newsnight panel of "ordinary voters" convened during the EU Referendum campaign, because of (a) its obvious ethnic imbalance and (b) the fact that the "representative" panel voted 9-1 to REMAIN! lol So much for an allegedly representative panel chosen by an experienced and reputable polling company.

    However there was another Panel last night from Sheffield I think discussing Brexit with Evan Davies. Perhaps Newsnight were trying to make amends for that appalling referendum panel, but this panel was remarkable for the good sense on display, refusal to be cowed by the continuing Project Fear (as assiduously promoted by the BBC) and generally pro-Brexit or "let's get on with it" attitude.

    Was it a fluke? If anything I would say pro-Brexitness on display was probably a little over the top in determining the mood of the country. But I am not going to complain about that given the 9,745 instances of BBC Bias towards Remain! :)

    It was a pleasure for once to see the country I actually know and love reflected on the BBC - good humour, resilience, politeness and determination.

    1. By coincidence....I was just about to post a piece saying that very thing (duly posted now).


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