Czech ruling coalition ahead in Senate elections, independents win local vote

By bne IntelliNews October 13, 2014

The Czech centre-left ruling coalition is on its way to keep control of the upper house of the parliament, the Senate, after this weekend’s elections showed most of the candidates of the three parties advancing to the runoffs. In separate municipal elections also held on Oct 10-11, independent candidates and movements won over 60% of the votes with the remaining posts going to candidates put forward by the three governing parties. The election results showed that Czechs are supporting the government that since taking power in January 2014 has raised the minimum wage and increased public investments to help the economy recover from a record-long recession.

With all votes counted, the results showed that none of the 27 candidates to become senators in the 81-seat chamber reached the 50% threshold meaning that the top two in each district will advance to the runoff to be held next weekend, the statistics office said. Most of the candidates of the ruling coalition comprising Social Democrats (CSSD), ANO and Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) are moving to the second round. The senior ruling party CSSD ranked first or second in 19 districts, while ANO and KDU-CSL advanced to the runoffs in nine and eight districts, respectively. Of the opposition parties, centre-right Civic Democrats (ODS) fared the best with seven of its candidates moving on to the second round.

The Senate is the less influential of the parliament’s two chambers but it can seek changes to bills approved by the lower house, make constitutional amendments, and approve Constitutional Court judges and members of the central bank’s governing board.

In the municipal elections, more than 60% of the votes went for independents. Of the political parties, ANO won in half of the 26 major cities, including the capital Prague. KDU-CSL was the one that got the highest number of seats in local assemblies, followed by CSSD, the Communists and ODS. Turnout at the local elections was 44.46%, down from 48.5% at the previous vote held in 2010.

The election results are cementing ANO’s status as the most popular Czech party giving its leader, billionaire Andrej Babis, another victory over traditional parties. ANO won the Czech elections to the European Parliament in May. Babis set up ANO in 2011 as an anti-corruption movement which has quickly gained popularity taking advantage of the Czechs’ dissatisfaction with graft in the country’s established mainstream parties.

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