USTI NAD LABEM, Czech Republic, September 29 (Reuters) – Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban backed the re-election bid of his Czech counterpart Andrej Babis on Wednesday, demonstrating the close ties between the two central European leaders who supported each other . in disputes with the EU.
The Czech Republic is holding parliamentary elections on October 8 and 9. Opinion polls put Babis’ centrist ANO party ahead of its rivals, but some show it lacks partners to form a majority government, which could cede power to a coalition between the main center-left opposition groups and center-right.
Campaigning, accompanied by Orban, Babis highlighted how he and the Hungarian leader blocked the European Commission’s plan to distribute asylum seekers in the bloc according to a quota system following the European migration crisis in 2015.
“We defend our national interests together” in the EU, Babis said after presenting Orban at a joint press conference in the town of Usti nad Laben, in the north of the country, where the Czech leader is in the spotlight. head of the ANO party list.
Orban also praised the close cooperation of their countries as well as the economic success of the Czech Republic.
“We in Hungary are ready to maintain close, friendly and sober cooperation with the government of Andrej Babis,” said Orban, whose right-wing Fidesz party has ruled Hungary since 2010, often in conflict with Brussels over the immigration and reforms of the media, justice, academic institutions and NGOs.
Earlier this week, the Czech government agreed to send 50 police officers to help guard the Hungarian border with Serbia, which Babis also visited last week.
Babis, a billionaire businessman, has become increasingly positive about cooperation within the Central European Visegrad Group and in particular with Orban in recent years, despite EU concerns about the rule of law in Hungary.
The Czech Republic failed to join a majority of EU states this year in signing a letter of protest against Hungarian legislation banning the use of material deemed to promote homosexuality and gender change in schools.
One of the two main opposition coalitions vying for the Czech election, the Pirate Party / Mayors, attacked Babis over its links with Orban.
“Viktor Orban has transformed Hungary from democracy to autocracy over the past 10 years,” his leader Ivan Bartos said on Facebook.
“He liquidates the free media, liquidates the opposition, free enterprise, spies on journalists … Such a policy is the model of Andrej Babis.”
Reporting by Robert Muller, written by Jan Lopatka Editing by Gareth Jones
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