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.
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.
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

US, China Have Dueling Definitions of Cybersecurity

Analysts say attribution or or proving that a particular individual or government is responsible for a hack, is a daunting task More

Snowden: I'd Go to Prison to Return to US

Former NSA contractor says he has not received a formal plea-deal offer from US officials, who consider him to be a traitor More

Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today's Real Native Americans

Weary of stereotypes, photographer Matika Wilbur is determined to reshape the public's perception of her people More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs