PRAGUE – Social Democrats edged out a new populist party to win Czech elections Saturday as voters angered by years of right-wing graft and austerity veered left, full results showed.
However, the fragmented outcome of the two-day ballot leaves few options for a stable majority government, analysts warned, and the parties will have to embark upon coalition talks.
Social Democrats scored a hollow victory with 20.4 percent of the vote, just 1.8 percentage points more than the ANO party led by billionaire Andrej Babis.
Coming in runner-up has cast the second-wealthiest Czech as a power broker on the EU member’s chaotic political scene.
The election had been called eight months early after a spy and bribery scandal brought down the center-right government of Petr Necas in June and launched the political scene into turmoil.
Tipped as the new prime minister, Social Democrat leader Bohuslav Sobotka was disappointed by the outcome but said he was ready to kick off coalition talks with all parties.
Babis, a Slovak-born farming tycoon and media mogul, capitalized on the blow dealt to the right by the bribery scandal to catapult his party from nowhere to No. 2.
Claiming his billions make him immune to bribery, he wooed voters with vows of squeaky clean politics and prosperity.