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Coalition Talks Expected After Inconclusive Czech Vote

Czech Social Democratic Party leader Bohuslav Sobotka casts his vote at a polling station during an early general election on October 25.
Czech politicians are heading for what could be complicated coalition negotiations after early elections left all parties far from wielding a majority influence in the legislature.

Official results of the polling on October 25-26 showed the opposition left-wing Social Democrats winning the most votes, taking 20.5 percent, or 50 seats, in the 200-seat lower house of parliament.

A new centrist party, ANO, or YES, which has sought to portray itself as an anticorruption movement, finished second with 18.7 percent.

Social Democrat leader Bohuslav Sobotka said late on October 26 that his party wants "to build a sensible and stable government."

He called his party's performance a "bitter victory," and indicated that he would try to build a minority government.

"Social Democracy will handle the voters' confidence very responsibly," he said.

The Communist Party, which has sought to ally with the Social Democrats, finished in third place, worse than expected, with less than 15 percent.

Its leader, Vojtech Filip, told reporters that his party will watch the coalition closely.

"If the government set up is one that that the Communist Party cannot support, then we will not be part of the government," he said.

Billionaire businessman and ANO leader, Andrej Babis, thanked voters for backing his party.

"The number of people who voted for us is unbelievable," he said. "We never did hope for such a number," said, adding that he believed voters "appreciated our positive campaigning, in which we did not attack anyone. We feel very responsible for all the people who voted for our program, and we promise we will not betray [them]. We will always stick to our program's priorities."

The formerly ruling conservative Civic Democrats received just 7.7 percent, as voters punished the party for a series of corruption scandals and unpopular austerity policies.

The election was called after former Civic Democrats Prime Minister Petr Necas resigned in June over a corruption scandal and a subsequent caretaker government lost a confidence vote in August.
With reporting by Reuters, AFP and AP
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