Czech election uncertainty as President rushed to hospital

By Karel Janicek

Czech Republic’s President Milos Zeman has been taken to hospital the day after the national election. Credit:AP

Prague: Czech President Milos Zeman was rushed to the hospital on Sunday, a day after the country held parliamentary election in which populist Prime Minister Andrej Babis’ party surprisingly came in second and Zeman has a key role in establishing a new government.

The Czech presidency is largely ceremonial but the president chooses which political leader can try to form the next government. Earlier on Sunday, Zeman met with Babis, his close ally, but the Prime Minister made no comment as he left the presidential chateau in Lany, near Prague.

On Saturday, the centrist ANO (Yes) party led by Babis, a populist billionaire, narrowly lost the Czech Republic’s election, which could spell the end of the eurosceptic leader’s reign in the European Union nation of 10.7 million people.

A liberal-conservative three-party coalition named Together captured 27.8 per cent of the vote, beating Babis’ ANO, which won 27.1 per cent. In a second blow to the populists, another center-left liberal coalition received 15.6 per cent to finish third.

The winning coalition won 71 seats while its third-place partner captured 37 seats to have a comfortable majority of 108 seats in the 200-seat lower house of Parliament, and they pledged to work together. Babis’s party won 72 seats, six less than in the 2017 election.

But Zeman earlier indicated he would first appoint the leader of the strongest party, not the strongest coalition, to try to form the government. That would give Babis a chance to give it a try to find a majority for his possible new government.

If he fails, as expected, and his latest government doesn’t win a mandatory confidence vote in the house, Zeman could ask him to try to create a new government again.

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