The former Czech prime minister qualified despite a reputation tarnished by accusations of embezzlement and questions about his role in the communist regime’s secret police.
Andrej Babis, chairman of the populist centrist party ANO and deputy, will face former general Petr Pavel on January 27 and 28, who narrowly beat him in the first round. The winner of the ballot will succeed the outgoing head of state, Milos Zeman, a colorful character known for his outspokenness and his excessive consumption of alcohol.
Born in neighboring Slovakia, Babis had nevertheless assured that he would never run for the presidency: “I wouldn’t enjoy this job“, he had explained.
Fifth fortune in the country, Babis grew rich by becoming the owner of the sprawling food, chemical and media holding Agrofert.
He made his political debut as president of his movement ANO! (YES!), campaigning on an anti-corruption agenda. The populist party entered parliament in 2013 and sits in the Renew group (centrists and liberals) in the European Parliament.
But Babis’ career is also strewn with various accusations, which the businessman has always denied, denouncing a “smear campaign“.
Babis was ousted as finance minister, which he held from 2014 to 2017, after leaked recordings showing he had influenced journalists working for his newspapers.
Accused of fraud in European subsidies, for an amount of 2 million dollars, he was acquitted in early January by a court in Prague, after six years of prosecution.
He has also filed several lawsuits, claiming he was not an agent of the StB’s secret police in the 1980s, when the former Czechoslovakia was ruled by communists under Moscow’s thumb. But the files of the StB bear his signature under the pseudonym of “Buresa fairly common surname, and the courts have so far dismissed his claims.
Prime minister from 2017 to 2021, he left office after his party lost the elections by a narrow margin, won by the center-right coalition in power.
Babis, father of four, is now a backbencher.
“To earn money»
The former communist, who once served donuts to woo voters, Babis has an estimated fortune of $4.3 billion, according to the 2022 Forbes list.
Thanks to a father who, according to him, has “co-founded foreign trade in SlovakiaUnder communism, Babis grew up traveling, attending primary school in Paris and secondary school in Geneva.
Born on September 2, 1954 in Bratislava, he says that his taste for work and money came to him very early: “I’ve been working since I was 15: delivering milk, unloading parcels at the station, decorating, building weekend houses, all to earn money“.
After earning an economics degree, he followed in his father’s footsteps and worked as a sales representative in Morocco. After the Velvet Revolution, which overthrew the Czechoslovakian totalitarian regime in 1989, he returned home: his country was cut in two and he was unemployed.
Andrej Babis bought Agrofert in the early 2000s in a deal that raised some questions due to a purchase price that some felt was far too low.