After a fractured vote, Czech leaders brace for coalition talks
By Jan Flemr, AFPPRAGUE -- Czech political leaders braced Sunday for tough coalition talks after a snap election marked by fragmented results and a surprise second place for the billionaire-led populist ANO party, which narrowly lost to the main opposition Social Democrats.
October 28, 2013, 12:02 am TWN
With seven parties having jumped the five-percent hurdle to secure a place in parliament in Friday-Saturday's vote, analysts warn the political horse-trading could end in stalemate.
“YES! I'll be the king-maker now,” screeched the headline on Sunday's Nedelni Blesk weekly, signalling the meteoric debut of tycoon Andrej Babis's ANO (Yes) party.
“No government is possible without the support, active or passive, of ANO,” said political analyst Tomas Lebeda.
ANO, which means “yes” in Czech and is also an acronym for Action of Alienated Citizens, wooed voters angered by recession, austerity and a dramatic spying and bribery scandal that toppled the center-right coalition of Petr Necas in June.
The EU member state emerged from an 18-month recession in the second quarter of this year, but it remains plagued by endemic corruption.
The Social Democrats (CSSD) scored just 20.4 percent of the vote, only 1.8 points more than ANO, but its leader Bohuslav Sobotka is still tipped to be prime minister.
“Our negotiating teams (CSSD and ANO) will meet next week,” Sobotka said Sunday, warning that he expects “difficult talks.”
Before the vote, the 42-year-old mild-mannered career politician had suggested he could form a minority government with the tacit support of Communists.
They had been pegged as runners-up, but finished third with under 15 percent of the vote.
The Slovak-born Babis, a media mogul and food baron who is the Czech Republic's second richest man, has so far sent mixed messages about whether he will team up with Sobotka.
Analysts believe the Social Democrats will most likely strike a deal with the centrist Christian Democrats — who scored 6.8 percent — and then secure backing from ANO.
The three parties — which are all pro-European and agree on eventually joining the eurozone — would control 111 seats in the 200-seat parliament.
Coalition governments lacking comfortable majorities are the norm in the Czech Republic, with smaller parties or independent MPs often wooed for support.