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As Czechs head to polls, Babiš remains frontrunner despite Pandora papers scandal

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By Jiri Skacel with AP, AFP
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Czech President Milos Zeman (R) and Prime Minister Andrej Babis (C) on June 6, 2018.
Czech President Milos Zeman (R) and Prime Minister Andrej Babis (C) on June 6, 2018.   -   Copyright  MICHAL CIZEK/AFP or licensors
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Czechs head up to the polls on Friday for parliamentary elections against the backdrop of the COVID-19 crisis and new revelations on billionnaire prime minister Andrej Babiš' offshore dealings.

The election is widely seen as a referendum on Babiš, who is opposed by two newly-united coalitions, the centre-right political alliance SPOLU, and the liberal progressive Pirátská Strana (Pirate Party).

Immigration and the country's relationship with the EU are two key issues that could weigh in Babiš' favour, analysts say.

Babiš has been hit by the Pandora papers scandal that links him and hundreds of other wealthy people to offshore accounts.

In 2009, Babiš put €19 million into shell companies to buy 16 properties in southern France, including a chateau, the investigation found.

He has denied any wrongdoing and claimed that the revelation was meant to harm him in the election.

His ANO party still leads the polls with about 30%, but could likely struggle to build a coalition.

President, Milos Zeman, has already said he will use his presidential powers to appoint the leader of the party that gets the most votes as prime minister.

"Babiš has a very strong ally in President Milos Zeman [...] and because the main opponents of Babiš are two coalitions which Zeman doesn’t recognise as political subjects, he is going to appoint Babis again," political analyst Jiri Pehe told Euronews.

Meanwhile, the Pirate Party's is hoping its election campaign slogan "Return the future to the country" appeals to the young generation.

"Lying is the crutch of incompetent people. Prime Minister Babiš has to lie to others, but for us it's enough to tell the truth about him," Pirátská Strana leader Ivan Bartos said.

The parliamentary elections start on October 8 and close on October 9. Results will be announced on Saturday.