Published: Mon, October 23, 2017
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

Czech Republic sees shift to right in parliamentary vote

Czech Republic sees shift to right in parliamentary vote

Billionaire Andrej Babis has won a thumping victory in the Czech Republic's parliamentary election, while Eurosceptic and an anti-Islam group made strong gains.

Capitalising on voter frustration with traditional parties, ANO (Yes) raked in 29.7 percent of the vote for 78 seats in the 200-member parliament, campaigning on an anti-corruption ticket despite Babis's recent indictment over European Union subsidy fraud.

'It's a huge success, ' Babis told supporters and journalists at his headquarters in Prague.

His holdings, including interests in national newspapers and a radio station, were placed in a trust earlier this year.

Babis - dubbed the "Czech Trump", a reference to the United States president - has promised to bring a businessman's touch to government.

Although he was a finance minister in the outgoing government until May, many Czechs see him as a maverick outsider with the business acumen to shake up the system.

Since the leader of the strongest party usually gets to form a new government, Babis could be the country's next leader.

Babis, who is poised to become the new Czech prime minister as his party's electoral victory is nearly certain, is, however, a controversial figure.

Betting on his anti-euro, anti-migrant and anti-corruption ticket, ANO (Yes) movement chief Andrej Babis, topped opinion polls by a wide margin ahead of the ballot which ends on Saturday afternoon.

He didn't immediately say which parties he preferred but has invited all parties that won seats in parliament for talks.

ANO is the first party to break a quarter century of dominance by two mainstream centre-right and centre-left parties, highlighting a shifting political landscape in Europe where a refugee crisis has given rise to protest groups.

The opposition conservative Civic Democrats came in a distant second with 11.3 percent of the vote and 25 seats. His erstwhile coalition partner, the veteran, center-left Social Democratic Party of Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, meanwhile slid to sixth place in the most recent election, with only 7.3% of the vote. He denied the charges, calling them politically-motivated, and refused to step down as party leader.

Analyst Lebeda said "we have a very odd atmosphere with a number of emotions that absolutely do not correspond to the social and economic reality". "And for the first time we face the threat that an openly xenophobic, extremist movement will earn more than 10 percent" of the vote, it added, pointing to the far-right Freedom and Free Democracy (SPD) of Tokyo-born entrepreneur Tomio Okamura.

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