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Interview with Andrej Babiš “It bothers me that careerists are beginning to infiltrate among us”

“It’s enormously difficult to seek support when you stand against all” Andrej Babiš

Dealing with Andrej Babiš is short, matter-of-fact, unambiguous and with a clear outcome. Actually, he already announced that it’s possible to run the state like a company during the campaign for preliminary elections. What else is needed to do this? What types of people does he select for his immediate circle and where does he look for candidates for the autumn communal elections?

A Vice-Prime Minister, Minister of Finance, a Member of the Chamber of Deputies, Chairman of the ANO 2011 Movement, businessman, billionaire... How do you actually prefer to be addressed? And which of the titles always surprises you?

I tell my closest colleagues that my name is still Babiš. So, they call me Mr. Babiš or boss… When someone says Mr. Vice-Prime Minister, I have to focus to be clear they are talking to me.

A while ago, the media brought a number of lists with a so called 'hundred day of defense' of the new government. Were you interested in anything particular in these evaluations?

I never noticed that the media would be evaluating anything serious. The government runs and, in my view, it couldn’t have performed more in a hundred days than it did. 

Were you satisfied with the results of the European Parliament elections? What will the Euro-Deputies from the ANO 2011 Movement be like? Won’t they be ‘too far’ from you in Brussels?

I wasn’t happy with the results, but that’s a general knowledge. Not so much in regard with the final result as with the course of the campaign and the approach of some people from the movement. But that’s behind us.
Our candidates were the best and I’m convinced that they really want to do something for Czech Republic. I’m sure they will be reporting about what they do in Brussels and Strasbourg.

What goals do you have for the communal elections? And is Prague key for you or also other regions?

As a movement, we want to be successful in places where we will find quality people, quality candidates. We will not build candidate lists everywhere at all costs. Prague will certainly be essential to us. It’s like a state within a state, where there is the most stealing happening in total. I want to personally have oversight of the elections in Prague.

And what about the Senate? Do you have a sufficient list of suitable personalities?

Of course we will offer some personalities, but it’s a question of who perceives whom as a personality. Both famous and less famous people will be the candidates for the ANO Movement. They are important in their respective fields and will go to the Senate to offer their experience and mainly, to work. If they are successful at it, they can become personalities, as that term probably understood by the media.

It’s been a year since the Petr Nečas government failed. Last summer was in the spirit of forming a new government, insecurity, approaching early elections. When was the point at which you realized that ANO 2011 must act 'now or never?'

The entry of ANO into politics wasn’t at all connected to the failure of the Petr Nečas government. Petr Nečas was essentially a decent Prime Minister who didn’t manage to handle his immediate surroundings and his emotions, which brought him down. I realized that I had to do something when the Topoláneks, Řebíčeks and Dalíks began stealing in the scope of billions and Mr. President maintained that there actually is no corruption, which was in the fall of 2011. Our campaign was launched long before the fall of Mr. Nečas' government, back when journalists and politicians laughed at us.

At which point did you realize that you could – and will – immediately participate in directing of the state? From today’s knowledge and experience, would you act differently in that moment?

We realized it when we ended up second in the elections after ČSSD. We essentially prevented a leftist government of social democrats with the support of communists, thus avoiding, for example, a leap increase in taxes and waste of public money. We did create a functioning coalition government, but from today’s perspective, we would have chosen a different approach in negotiating the coalition agreement. These days we wouldn’t have had to hassle over hospital fees or cancellation of the second pillar. We made mistakes. On the other hand, there was no other solution except a coalition government with ČSSD.

The chart of relationships in the Commercial Register, when searching your name, looks like a very complicated spider web at a first glance. Actually, if there was a similar chart within central administrative bodies, the result would be equally complicated. Which one of the fields is more difficult for you in terms of maintaining an overview?

In the company, I had managers around me whom I could choose myself. They knew how holdings work. At the same time, I personally knew most of over two hundred directors of the companies. I’m only beginning in the state administration, but I’m getting used to it. And I’m increasingly convinced that managing a state administration on the principles of company management is neither silly or nor some chimera. To the contrary, every day I see that such management over state administration is necessary.

You are perceived by the public as a leader. But how do you personally define a leader?

In my view, a leader is a person who strategically leads a project toward a goal. It should be someone with charisma, who can motivate other capable people toward the goal.

What kind of people do you select for your immediate working environment?

Exactly the kind of people I’m talking about, people who aim for the goal, who know what they want. But there aren’t that many people like this and only a few in politics, if I don’t count those whose goals are to their own benefit.

No doubt, your schedule is very busy. Inevitably, this requires an effective method of negotiation and decision making. What is it actually like to deal with Andrej Babiš?

A meeting shouldn’t take longer than thirty minutes, it would be matter-of-fact, unambiguous and with a clear outcome. I have ten to fifteen such meetings per day, so it’s not even possible otherwise.

Was the state administration ready for ‘your’ method of leadership?

It wasn’t and it isn’t, so I’m trying to break it.

So, you are running the Ministry ‘as a company.’ What would have to change in order to run the state the same way?

We would have to win elections with more than 51 percent and be in a majority government. But mainly we would have to change the thinking of people in the state administration. They have to realize that they aren’t working for politicians, not for the godfathers, not even for themselves, but for the citizens of this country. There are many capable people among the clerks, but now we need to put the capable and unselfish to the forefront. It’s going to take a while and certainly the Service Act will help us.

What makes you currently happy and what bothers you most from the position of the Chairman of the ANO Movement?

What makes me happy? That there are many people in the movement who believe that it’s possible to move our country toward prosperity and a satisfied society. It bothers me that careerists are beginning to infiltrate among us, who don’t care on whose side they stand and are only interested in their own benefit. But we will work on eliminating such people.

And what makes you currently happy and what bothers you most from the position of the Minister of Finance?

I’m happy to see that some numbers and rules still work. I’m dealing with how the department worked, or rather how it didn’t work. But I’m bothered with the incredible bureaucracy and non-action of the state administration. That’s also something we fight.  

Will the citizens of the Czech Republic be better off one day when the participation of ANO in directing the state ends? In what areas?

I think it’s already clear today that people can be better off. But it depends on all of us. I assume that the systemic large-scale theft will end, that we will stop the greatest injustice against groups who cannot defend themselves, such as pensioners or health impaired. Even if ANO were to disappear today, I think the fresh air it brought into politics is cleansing. I have never heard that someone from ANO would be stealing, nor have anything to do with certain godfathers. That in itself is positive.

And what should be the main imprint that Andrej Babiš would leave in the Czech Republic?

I really don’t need any monuments. I just want to show that politics can be done by people who don’t need to do it for their own profit. But it’s enormously difficult to seek support when you stand against all. It will be a success if our political scene renews itself, if some people have their noses rubbed and leave politics. It’s essential for us to define where we want to go as a society. Then we can decide with whom we want to do it.

And finally, what will this year’s summer be like in the political scene? Will there be peace?

It won’t be very peaceful. In July, there will be an extraordinary meeting in the Chamber in regard to the Service Act, in mid-August the campaign for communal and Senate elections will launch. So I don’t expect peace. But I will certainly find the time to be with my children. I recommend this to everyone. I also recommend to everyone that they vote for decent and selfless candidates in the fall, the best of the best, regardless of which political party they are from.


Author: Jaroslav Kramer
Source: Prague Leaders Magazine 
 
 
 
 
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