News / Europe

Czech Left Heads for Election Win

A leader of ANO 2011 movement Andrej Babis (C) hands out donuts during an election campaign rally at a subway station in Prague, Oct. 23, 2013.
A leader of ANO 2011 movement Andrej Babis (C) hands out donuts during an election campaign rally at a subway station in Prague, Oct. 23, 2013.
Reuters
The Czech Republic looks sure to swing left in this weekend's early election when voters punish center-right parties for spending cuts and graft scandals that have marred their nearly seven-year rule.
 
Opinion polls show the Social Democrats, led by ex-finance minister Bohuslav Sobotka, emerging as the largest party with about 26 percent but they will need a coalition partner.
 
New anti-establishment parties tapping into Czechs' frustration with sleaze are also expected to score well and this may complicate the coalition talks.
 
The central European country of 10.5 million people has started to emerge slowly from six quarters of recession but the outlook for economic growth remains weak as households are reluctant to spend.
 
The Social Democrats plan to help poorer Czechs by rolling back the previous government's unpopular pensions and healthcare reforms. They want to raise taxes for big firms and top earners to keep the budget deficit below 3 percent of national output.
 
Sobotka, 42, has broken a taboo by saying he is ready to form a minority cabinet that would be supported in parliament by the Communists, who have not had any share in power since their totalitarian rule ended in the 1989 “Velvet Revolution.”
 
Sobotka believes his party needs at least 30 percent of the vote for a minority government to function successfully with the backing of the Communists, who polls show becoming the second biggest party with 18 percent of the vote.
 
“The only election result that makes sense for us is a strong mandate to form a government,” he said on Wednesday.
 
But he may instead have to turn to one of the newer parties, such as the centrist ANO (Yes) movement of business tycoon Andrej Babis, whose anti-graft message has struck a chord with  voters. ANO is tipped to pick up 16.5 percent of the vote.
 
“I will vote for Babis. He has enough [wealth] so he doesn't need to steal... I voted before for the [center-right] Civic Democrats, but that is just impossible now,” said Michael Turek, 27, a teacher.
 
Corruption
 
Babis is listed in the Forbes list of billionaires with net worth estimated at $2 billion and his Agrofert empire spans hundreds of food and chemical firms and two daily newspapers.
 
Critics say Babis, a onetime Communist Party member, has flourished in the same murky post-communist business environment he now rails against.
 
A poll earlier this year showed that being a politician is the least respected job and a Gallup poll showed last week 94 percent of Czechs think corruption is widespread in government.
 
The outgoing center-right parties, the Civic Democrats and the TOP09, whose cabinet collapsed over illegal surveillance and corruption allegations in June, are headed for a heavy defeat, tipped to win only 6.5 and 9 percent respectively.
 
Apart from problems that would arise from a fragmented parliament, Sobotka will also have to convince President Milos Zeman to appoint him as prime minister.
 
Zeman, also a leftist, has strained relations with Sobotka and has hinted he may prefer a different prime minister. This would become more likely if the Social Democrats' margin of victory is weak and if a small party of Zeman's allies clears the 5 percent hurdle to enter parliament.
 
Financial markets have so far largely ignored the election, a testament to the country's economic stability and low debt at 46 percent of gross domestic product, about half of the European average. But prolonged uncertainty could unsettle investors.
 
A Social Democrat-led government, especially if it depends on the Communists, may forge warmer relations with Russia.
 
The next government will have to decide whether Russia's Atomstroyexport or U.S.-based Westinghouse, a unit of Japan's Toshiba Corp, wins a contract to build a new nuclear power plant at Temelin.
 
While coalition talks drag on after the election, the Czech Republic will continue to be ruled by a caretaker government Zeman appointed in July, led by Jiri Rusnok.

You May Like

Gun Nation

This is who America's gun owners are More

US Border Patrol Union Accused of Taking Sides on Immigration

Report alleges agents leaking info to immigration opponents, appearing at their private events; Center for Immigration Studies director defends agents' actions More

Video Rights Monitor: Hate Groups' Use of Internet to Inflame, Recruit Growing

Wiesenthal Center's Abraham Cooper says extremists have become skilled at celebrating violence, ideology on Web More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Interneti
X
Mike O'Sullivan
June 30, 2015 8:20 PM
Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.

VOA Blogs