Early Czech Election Results Signal Shift to Right

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Karla Slechtova, Czech Minister of Regional Development for ANO movement on Oct 21, 2017 in Prague.
Karla Slechtova, Czech Minister of Regional Development for ANO movement on Oct 21, 2017 in Prague.Credit: MICHAL CIZEK/AFP

Partial results Saturday from the Czech Republic's parliamentary election showed the centrist ANO (YES) movement led by populist billionaire Andrej Babis heading toward a decisive victory in a vote that will shift the Central European nation to the right.

ANO has received 31.0 percent of the vote, after ballots from 66 percent of the country's polling stations were counted, according to the Statistics Office.

Babis was the front-runner heading into the two-day ballot that began Friday to fill 200 seats in the Czech Republic's lower house of Parliament. His victory would pave the way for him to become the country's next prime minister, despite allegations of fraud linked to European Union subsidies.

The president usually asks the leader of the strongest party in Parliament's lower house to try to form a new government.

In a blow to the country's traditional parties, of the first five parties so far leading in the vote, four challenge the traditional political mainstream. Some exploit fears of immigration and Islam and have been attacking the country's membership in the EU and NATO.

Early results showed the most radical anti-migration, anti-Muslim, anti-EU party, the Freedom and Direct Democracy, was in second place with 11.3 percent of the vote so far. The opposition conservative Civic Democrats were third with 10.3 percent, while the Pirate Party followed with 9.9 percent and the Communists were fifth with 8.5 percent.

ANO is united with most other Czech parties in completely rejecting the EU's quota system on redistributing refugees. Babis has been critical of the EU and opposes setting a date for the Czech Republic adopting the euro. His victory could result in another euroskeptic government in Central Europe.

"It's a voting hurricane," analyst Michal Klima told the Czech television, referring to the effect on traditional mainstream parties.

The Social Democrats, the senior party in the outgoing government that won the 2013 election, had only 7.7 percent of the vote so far.