The Social Democrats have won a narrow victory in early parliamentary elections in the Czech Republic, but the composition of the next government is likely to depend on a billionaire who entered politics only two years ago. The Social Democrats (ČSSD) had enjoyed a commanding, albeit narrowing, lead for most of the two-month election campaign. However, its lead, once over 12 percentage points, shrank rapidly in the final days before yesterday’s and today’s vote, and its final tally, 20.5%, gave it just three more seats than the party of Andrej Babiš, a controversial industrialist and – since this spring – a media magnate. Babiš’s party, ANO 2011-Akce nespokojených občanů (Yes 2011 – Action of Dissatisfied Citizens), won 18.7% of the votes and 47 of the 200 seats in parliament. ANO took votes from all parties and its support was evenly spread across the population. While Babiš succeeded in recruiting a range of celebrities, polls suggest that the party’s late surge dates to a weekend blitz of interviews on television.
In June, Babiš bought the publisher of two of the country’s leading serious newspapers, Mladá fronta Dnes and Lidové noviny.
In another sign of the long-term ferment in Czech politics, accentuated in May by the implosion of the centre-right government in a series of scandals, a second new party managed to win seats in parliament. Dawn of Direct Democracy, which was formed this May by Tomio Okamura, a 41-year-old Czech-Japanese senator, came sixth, with 6.9% of the vote and 14 of the seats.
In all, 75 seats were won by parties that did not feature in the last parliament, as the Christian Democrats (KDU-ČSL) returned to parliament after a four-year absence, winning 6.8% of the vote and 14 seats.
Full Article: Social Democrats win Czech elections | European Voice.