Czech Prime Minister’s Party Loses Elections Against Liberal-Conservative Coalition | Czech Republic

Prime Minister Andrej Babiš’s centrist party narrowly lost the parliamentary elections in the Czech Republic on Saturday, a surprise development that could spell the end of the ruling populist billionaire’s reign.

The two-day election to fill 200 seats in the lower house of parliament came shortly after details of Babiš’s financial transactions abroad were published in the Pandora Papers. Babiš, 67, denied any wrongdoing.

Petr Fiala, the leader of the Civic Party (ODS) and candidate of the Ensemble coalition (Spolu) for the post of Prime Minister, at a press conference on Saturday. Photograph: EPA

With all votes counted, the Czech statistics office said Ensemble, a tripartite liberal-conservative coalition, won 27.8% of the vote, beating Babiš’s ANO (Yes) party, which won 27.1 %. In a second blow to the populists, another liberal center-left coalition of the Pirate Party and STAN, a group of mayors, won 15.6% of the vote to finish third, the statistics office reported.

“The two democratic coalitions have obtained the majority and have a chance to form a majority government,” said Petr Fiala, the Ensemble leader and his candidate for prime minister.

The winning coalition won 71 seats while its partner took 37 seats for a comfortable majority of 108 seats. Babiš won 72 seats, six fewer than in the 2017 elections.

The five opposition parties, which have policies closer to the mainstream of the European Union compared to the populist Babiš, put aside their differences in this election to create the two coalitions, seeking to oust the Eurosceptic prime minister power.

On Saturday evening, the two coalitions announced that they had signed a memorandum of their willingness to govern together.

The result seemed to signal a highly symbolic final consignment to historical oblivion for the Communists, who ruled the former Czechoslovakia with an iron fist for more than 40 years before being toppled in the Velvet Revolution of 1989, in the midst of the collapse of communism throughout Eastern Europe.

Jiří Pehe, director of New York University in Prague and Czech political analyst, hailed the results as a triumph for liberal democracy and said they marked the end of the post-communist era.

“We are probably seeing the end of Babiš’s era in Czech politics and because it was largely created politically by Miloš Zeman, along with Mr. Zeman’s ill health, we are probably also seeing the end of its era, ”said Pehe. “I would say this is the end of the post-communist era in Czech politics. It’s a real change.

“The two opposition groups were formed because they wanted to ensure that liberal democracy would not be subjected to the same attacks as in Hungary and Poland. So we are certainly not going in the same direction as these countries.

Babiš waged an alarmist campaign that promised to protect the Czech Republic from illegal immigrants and involved slandering the EU – whose grants flowed into Agrofert, a giant industrial conglomerate he owns, sparking successive investigations into the conflicts of interests. In recent weeks, he has tried to deploy Viktor Orbán, Hungary’s far-right Prime Minister, as a campaign assistant, taking him on an electoral trip to the northern city of Usti nad Labem, where Babiš is deputy of the constituency.

Babiš was scheduled for an informal meeting with Zeman on Sunday morning, ahead of a formal meeting scheduled for October 13.

As president, Zeman, 77, had repeatedly promised to give Babiš the first option to form a new government, should the ANO become the biggest party, viewing the other coalition groups as a “fraud” to Readership.

“We’ll see what the president says,” Babiš said, conceding defeat.

However, Zeman’s political powers seemed diminished by poor health. After spending eight days last month in the military hospital in Prague, the president – now in a wheelchair and suffering from neuropathy in his feet – did not vote in public as is customary on Friday, but instead, was pictured voting in a private voting booth in the countryside. presidential retreat in Lany in central Bohemia. A television interview on the election results with local Czech channel CNN scheduled for Sunday was canceled due to poor health.

Speculation about the seriousness of his condition became so intense that his office was even forced to deny rumors that he was hiding the news of his death.

Agence France-Presse contributed to this report

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