The Social Democratic Party has won the country’s general election but
failed to secure a decisive victory sought by party leader Bohuslav
Sobotka. The party had hoped to gain one-third of the vote to form a
minority government (tacitly-supported by the Communists). But with all of
the ballots counted, the Social Democrats secured only 20.4
percent, making it clear the party will seek coalition talks with other
potential coalition partners (with the apparent exception of
right-of-centre TOP 09 and the Civic Democrats).
There is no guarantee, however, that Mr Sobotka will get the nod from President Zeman to try and form the next government. The president made clear in the past that he would only choose a prime minister designate from the “winning party”, leading to speculation he could choose someone other than its leader, presumably from a more closely-aligned wing.
The party’s leader Bohuslav Sobotka has said his party is ready to launch negotiations but repeated no negotiations would be conducted with the two previous coalition parties, the Civic Democrats and TOP 09. Mr Sobotka said a five-member negotiation team had largely already been chosen and he stressed that the forming of a stable coalition was a top priority as well remaining true to the party's programme.
The upstart party ANO 2011, led by billionaire businessman-turned-politician Andrej Babiš, secured the most surprising result of the election this year. The party, running a highly-effective protest campaign, finished second with 18.6 percent of the vote, outpacing not only the Communists, who were third (with 14.9 percent), but also two of the parties from the former government, TOP 09 and the Civic Democrats. TOP 09, led by Karel Schwarzenberg, finished with 11.9 percent of the vote, and the Civic Democrats, led by Miroslava Němcová, secured 7.7 percent.
The result is the worst-ever in a national election for the once-dominant Civic Democrats. The party ahead of the election had 53 mandates in the lower house and retained just 15 – a difference of 38. The result follows scandals which plagued the previous government as well as the former prime minister, Petr Nečas. Acting party leader Martin Kuba called the result a “major defeat” and said the Civic Democrats would head into opposition. He stressed that the party would continue inner-party changes kick-started after the fall of the government.
This year’s election also saw other major surprises, among them the success of a ‘second’ protest party, Dawn, led by Czech-Japanese businessman turned senator Tomio Okamura. Dawn, with what many pundits regard as a strongly populist message, made it into the Chamber of Deputies with 7 percent of the vote. The election also saw the successful return to the lower house of the Christian Democrats led by Pavel Bělobrádek (6.8 percent), a long-established party that failed to make it into the Chamber of Deputies last time.
The parties that made it into the lower house of Parliament: Social
Democrats (20.4%), ANO 2011 (18.6%), Communist Party (14.9%), TOP 09
Civic Democrats (7.6%), Dawn (6.9%), Christian Democrats (6.77%).
Translated into mandates in the 200-member Chamber of Deputies: Social Democrats (50), ANO 2011 (47), Communist Party (33), TOP 09 (26), Civic Democrats (16), Dawn (14), Christian Democrats (14).
By contrast, parties that failed to pass the five percent threshold included the Citizens’ Rights – Zemanites (supported by the current president) who secured only 1.5 percent of the vote. The Green Party, headed by Ondřej Liška, secured just 3.1 percent of the vote and the right-wing coalition Heads Up aheaded by Jana Bobošíková also finished well short of the five percent needed (0.42 percent).
According to public broadcaster Czech TV, voter turnout in the early election was just under 60 percent; 40 percent of voters cast their ballot on Friday, but Saturday saw a relative drop in the numbers. Parts of Prague saw lower turnout than for example three years ago: in 2010, 69 percent in the city’s Jižní město voted; this time, the turnout was not as strong: between 55 and 61 percent. Other parts of the country saw a similar turnout, according to information released by the Czech News Agency earlier on Saturday the regions of Plzeň, Hradec Králové and Zlín saw numbers of around 50 percent or more.
Two people died at polling stations in this year’s early elections. On Friday a senior, aged 81, collapsed and died shortly after casting her ballot in Frýdek-Místek, and on Saturday, a 77-year-old member of a local elections committee in the Chrudim area suddenly collapsed and could not be saved by medics. The local mayor said, as a result, a back-up had to be called in; he said the deceased had been well-known in the area.
The police uncovered a seventh body part, a human foot, in the Vltava River in Prague not far from Barrandov Bridge. An autopsy will be needed to confirm whether it belonged to a woman whose murder was first discovered in the middle of October. Almost all of the victim’s remains have been recovered, minus the head which would determine her identity. The woman is believed to have been between 30 to 40 years old; she had several identifying features or marks, including a piercing and a scar from a past operation. The police investigated a similar murder of a 50 year-old two years ago which went unsolved; they have not revealed whether the cases could be connected.