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Czech parties brace for coalition talks after fractured vote

To make things worse, the Social Democrats tried but failed yesterday to oust their leader Bohuslav Sobotka over their worse-than-expected election result.

Prague: Czech political leaders braced for tough coalition talks after a snap election marked by fragmented results and a surprise second place for the billionaire-led populist ANO party, which narrowly lost to the main opposition Social Democrats.

With seven parties having jumped the five-per cent hurdle needed to secure a place in parliament in Friday and Saturday`s vote, analysts warn the political horse-trading could end in stalemate.

To make things worse, the Social Democrats tried but failed yesterday to oust their leader Bohuslav Sobotka over their worse-than-expected election result.

Analyst said his prospects of becoming the future prime minister were growing dim.

"YES! I`ll be the king-maker now," screeched the headline on Sunday`s Nedelni Blesk weekly, signalling the meteoric debut of tycoon Andrej Babis`s ANO (Yes) party.

ANO, which means "yes" in Czech and is also an acronym for Action of Alienated Citizens, wooed voters angered by recession, austerity and a dramatic spying and bribery scandal that toppled the centre-right coalition of Petr Necas in June.

The EU member state emerged from an 18-month recession in the second quarter of this year, but it remains plagued by endemic corruption.
The Social Democrats (CSSD) scored just 20.4 per cent of the vote, only 1.8 points more than ANO.

Prior to the election Sobotka, a 42-year-old mild-mannered career politician had suggested the CSSD could form a minority government with the tacit support of Communists.

They had been pegged as runners-up, but finished third with under 15 per cent of the vote.

The Slovak-born Babis, a media mogul and food baron who is the Czech Republic`s second richest man, has so far sent mixed messages about whether he will team up with the CSSD.

Analysts believe the Social Democrats will most likely strike a deal with the centrist Christian Democrats -- who scored 6.8 per cent -- and then secure backing from ANO.

The three parties -- which are all pro-European and agree on eventually joining the eurozone -- would control 111 seats in the 200-seat parliament.

Coalition governments lacking comfortable majorities are the norm in the Czech Republic, with smaller parties or independent MPs often wooed for support.

A legacy of four decades of totalitarian rule, corruption has plagued the country of 10.5 million people since its 1993 split with Slovakia.

Transparency International ranks it as more corrupt than Rwanda and a Gallup Institute survey last week showed 94 per cent of Czechs believe graft is widespread in government.

From Zee News

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