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Czech party ahead in polls pledges no euro now, tighter border control

PRAGUE, Sept 3 (Reuters) - The Czech Republic should stay out of the euro zone for the time being and push the European Union to seal its external border against illegal migration, the party that is leading in polls ahead of an October election, said in its campaign manifesto.

The ANO movement, led by billionaire Andrej Babis, is a junior partner in the current center-left government and tops opinion polls with a double-digit margin ahead of nearest rivals. Babis is the main candidate for the central European country's next prime minister.

"We have to fight for security, promote sealing of the external European border, stopping illegal migration," Babis told a party conference, reflecting widespread public concern about immigration in the central European country.

"The euro is not beneficial for us at this point and also not in the coming period," he said.

The party manifesto said eventual entry to the euro zone would be conditional on reforms of the euro area. The country has no euro entry target at the moment and public support for the euro is low.

ANO's program said the party will support reforms of the EU and the euro zone and boost relations with France and Germany as key players in deciding the EU's direction.

Efforts to reform the bloc's functions are expected to pick up speed after Germany's national election later this month.

PROTEST MESSAGE

Babis said the Czech election on Oct. 20-21 was a unique chance to break what he described as a corrupt web around traditional parties.

Voters are perceptive to the anti-graft message although Babis himself faces the threat of charges of fraud in a case involving a 2 million euro ($2.4 million) subsidy for a farm and conference center outside Prague.

The Czech parliament will vote on Wednesday whether to allow police to press the charges. Babis denies any wrongdoing.

The case may complicate negotiations on forming a majority coalition after the vote. Several parties have said they could not envisage working with a prime minister charged with a crime.

Babis's opponents say that he grew his chemicals, farming and media empire, Agrofert, under the system he now criticizes. He transferred the firm to a trust fund earlier this year to meet conflict of interest legislation.

Babis, a finance minister from 2014 until last May, oversaw a period of strong economic growth and a budget surplus last year. He said the party aimed to keep public finances in balance but this could be breached to finance investments.

ANO's program pledged to cut insurance charges paid by both employers and employees, and lower value-added tax for some sectors and services.

It also pledged to hike teachers' pay - a hot election topic - by 50 percent over the four-year election term. ($1 = 0.8434 euros) (Reporting by Jan Lopatka; Editing by Susan Fenton)