Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis’s populist ANO party appears headed for an election win, according to partial results and projections, but it is unclear if the billionaire leader will be able to put together a majority in parliament.
Babis is seeking a second four-year term while battling criticism that he mismanaged the coronavirus pandemic, stoked fast-rising debt with handouts and tended to his own business interests in office. Babis denies all the accusations against him.
Voting took place on Friday and up to mid-day on Saturday. CNN Prima News projected soon after that ANO would win the election with 27.8 per cent of the vote, followed by the two opposition coalitions that have pledged to work together to oust ANO: the centre-right Together coalition on 26.4 per cent and the liberal Pirates/Mayors group with 15 per cent.
Results from 43 per cent of districts counted so far showed ANO at 29.9 per cent, with Together on 24.2 per cent and the Pirates/Mayors group with 13.8 per cent.
Babis, 67, promised in his campaign to continue raising public sector wages and pensions, hoping to shore up the basis of his popular support. He also stepped up his anti-migrant rhetoric and pledged to avoid ceding powers to the European Union.
The early results tend to come from smaller, countryside districts that have in the past voted more in favour of ANO than voters in cities.
The overall balance between the two opposition blocs and ANO with potential partners – and thus the shape of the future government – may be tipped by the results of two small parties that were on the verge of the 5 per cent threshold needed to win seats.
The two main opposition coalitions refuse to work with Babis over what they say are his unacceptable conflicts of interest related to the business empire he created before entering politics.
ANO looked certain to win more votes than any single party, and President Milos Zeman has said this is what would determine who gets the first shot at forming the next government.
If ANO’s current partners fail to win enough or any seats, as the partial results showed, ANO may be short of allies and may have to turn to the far-right Freedom and Direct Democracy Party in order to secure a lower house majority.