Czech elections: PM Andrej Babis looks set to lose power

The Czech Republic’s billionaire Prime Minister Andrej Babis and his ruling ANO party are set to lose their bid for re-election, partial results suggest.

With some 99% of voting districts reporting, Czech Television predicts two opposition coalitions will win 108 of 200 seats.

Both coalition groups have said they will not work with Mr Babis.

Ivan Bartos of the Pirates/Mayors coalition has said the opposition will start talks on forming a government.

According to a tally of results carried by Reuters news agency, the populist ANO won nearly 27.2% of the vote, with the centre-right coalition Spolu (meaning Together) winning 27.7% and the liberal Pirates/Mayors coalition PirStan taking 15.5%.

President Milos Zeman, the 77-year-old head of state, previously said he would give Mr Babis the chance to form a government if his party won the most seats.

But if the opposition coalitions keep to their pledge, it would be mathematically impossible for the leader and the ANO party to stay in power.

Addressing a crowd of supporters, Spolu leader Petr Fiala said together the coalitions had a chance of forming a majority government.

“This is the change, we are the change, you are the change,” he reportedly said.

In office since December 2017, Mr Babis had sought another four years in power by pledging to further raise public sector wages and pensions, as well as criticising the EU and migration.

Opponents however have attacked his policies for raising the public debt, and have long criticised what they see as conflicts of interest related to the prime minister’s business empire.

Mr Babis appeared in the Pandora Papers, a recent colossal leak of financial documents from offshore companies, which alleges he failed to declare an offshore investment company used to purchase two villas for £12m in the south of France.

After the leak, the prime minister insisted he had “never done anything wrong or illegal” and said the allegations published last week were an attempt to influence Saturday’s vote.

He also faces accusations of mishandling the pandemic. According to Johns Hopkins University data, the Czech Republic has recorded 1.7 million cases and more than 30,000 deaths from the coronavirus.

This weekend belongs to Spolu – a coalition of three conservative, liberal and Christian Democrat opposition parties, who together with a second opposition grouping will now command a majority in parliament.

But it’s not quite game over yet for Andrej Babis. The ailing President, Milos Zeman, has already said he’ll only ask the leader of the largest single party – not an electoral alliance – to form a new government. That is Andrej Babis, even though his prospects look grim.

It was a bad weekend for the country’s oldest political party, the Social Democrats. Founded in 1893, they’ve now entered – or maybe returned to – the history books, after failing to retain any seats. The Communists, successors to the pre-1989 totalitarian party, are history too.

And it was a disappointing day for the far-right SPD party. They had hoped to be kingmakers, with their eyes on the ultimate prize: a referendum on leaving the European Union. They failed to pick up any new seats, and if there’s no new Babis government they’ll have no role in it, and will be largely irrelevant.

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