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Center-Left Party First In Czech Elections


People wearing traditional costumes cast their votes at a polling station in Strazovice, in south Moravia.
A center-left party has finished first in the Czech parliamentary elections.

With all ballots counted on October 26, the Social Democrats led by former minister Bohuslav Sobotka have 20.4 percent of the votes.

Holding second place is ANO, led by billionaire businessman Andrej Babis, with 18.6 percent of the votes. In third place are the Communists, led by Vojtech Filip, with 14.9 percent.

The Social Democrats, however, do not have enough votes to form a government alone. The party would need a coalition partner, raising the possibility that the Communist Party could share power for the first time since 1989.

The Social Democrats' win of the parliamentary poll comes as Czechs turned against center-right parties, which have been in power for most of the past seven years, after painful budget cuts and corruption scandals.

In June, a three-party center-right governing coalition collapsed after Prime Minister Petr Necas's aide and lover, Jana Nagyova, was arrested and charged with bribery and abuse of power. Among other things she was charged with persuading military intelligence to place Necas's wife under surveillance.

A technocratic government followed but failed to win a vote of confidence in August, prompting parliament to schedule early elections.

Sick Of Corruption

Ahead of the October 25/26 elections, many voters said their main motivation for coming to the polls was a desire for change.

Prague resident Petr Janecek said he voted for the new party ANO "because I think that the Czech political scene needs some changes."

Michal Valkovic, a student in Prague, said he had voted for the Communists for much the same reason: "I voted for '21' [on the ballot paper] -- like the card game. It's a nice number and this is the KSCM [Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia]. This is a good choice from my point of view. It is the right one, because this is a serious party. They haven't been involved in the corruption scandal in that's why I am voting for them."

In Focus: Czechs Brace For Growing Communist Influence After Elections

Voters already veered left in January, electing ex-Communist Milos Zeman president after a decade under the right-wing and eurosceptic Vaclav Klaus.

Many Czechs have been outraged by the prospect of the far-left Communists becoming a powerbroker.

Anti-communists hoisted a massive banner of Russian President Vladimir Putin dressed as Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin atop a hill in central Prague on October 25.

Artist David Cerny gave Zeman the finger -- a huge purple one floating along the river before the presidential castle -- to show his opinion of the Communists.

Based on reporting by CTK and dpa
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