The civic movement headed by Andrej Babiš, the billionaire founder of the Czech agro-food group Agrofert, became a full-fledged party earlier this month and is now hunting for new members, and looking to get supporters of the previous entity to align with the new one.
Existing members of ANO 2011 cannot be automatically added to the freshly minted party’s rosters. With one-third of the seats in the upper house of parliament, the Senate, up for grabs — and nationwide regional elections also due in the fall — the political machine is gearing up for a battle for disaffected, disenchanted and undecided voters.
“We are now working intensively to complete the organization structure of the new movement in connection with the nationwide parliamentary race in September,” reads a letter addressed to supporters of ANO 2011 (In Czech, the acronym ANO stands for “action by dissatisfied citizens,” and also means “YES.”)
The letter also reminded the estimated 20,000 supporters of the movement that Czech law does not allow for the automatic transfer of membership, “and so it is up to you whether you want to become supporters of this new political entity” registered on May 11.
ANO 2011’s billboards have already begun appearing
ANO 2011 says on its website the initiative’s goal is “to achieve a more just and functional society based on the rule of law. And we can only achieve a clear victory in the next parliamentary elections with a civil movement made up of credible and independent people from the Czech Republic.”
Babiš has traditionally been close to the main opposition party, the Social Democrats (ČSSD), but is also said to be close to some of the patrons of the main government party, the Civic Democrats (ODS), and his views on the European Union put him on the same wavelength as eurosceptic President Václav Klaus.
ANO 2011’s partners include the Society Against Corruption (VPK) and the Endowment Fund Against Corruption (NFPK), founded by Karel Janeček, a mathematician, financier and trader.
In recent days, the Slovak-born Babiš and his entourage have visited a number of regions in the Czech Republic to present ANO 2011’s platform to regional and district coordinators. The party had planned to run a media campaign tied in with a registration drive in mid June, but has pushed it back to September, to tie in with its senatorial campaign.
Babiš’ movement has, according to Czech Position’s information, sounded out a number of media agencies that could take command of the media campaign. The high-profile agencies include Ariston PR, Candoo Communication, Underline, and McCann Erickson with possible campaign spending of Kč 20 million – Kč 30 million earmarked for this year.