Czech PM Babis heading for opposition after losing election

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Czech Republic's Prime Minister and leader of centrist ANO (YES) movement Andrej Babis reacts as he addresses the media after most of the votes were counted in the parliamentary elections, Prague, Czech Republic, Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021. Prime Minister Andrej Babis's centrist party has narrowly lost the Czech Republic's parliamentary election, a surprise development that could mean the end of the populist billionaire's reign in power. With the votes from 99.7% of the ballot stations counted, the Czech Statistics Office said Together, a liberal-conservative three-party coalition, captured 27.7% of the vote, beating Babis's ANO (Yes) party, which won 27.2%. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

PRAGUE – Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said he wouldn't accept an offer to try to create a new government after his centrist ANO political movement narrowly lost in the parliamentary election last week and was ready to end up in opposition.

Babis announced his decision in an interview for the Frekvence 1 radio station on Friday.

“We’ll hand it over to the new coalition and we’ll be in opposition,” the populist billionaire said.

Babis’ decision opens the way for two coalitions of five parties that have won a majority in the vote to rule.

A liberal-conservative, three-party coalition named Together captured 27.8% of the vote on Saturday, beating Babis’ ANO (YES) party, which won 27.1%. A center-left liberal coalition received 15.6% to finish third.

The two coalitions have pledged to govern jointly. They’re closer to the European Union mainstream than Euroskeptic Babis.

Together won 71 of the 200 seats in the lower house of parliament and the center-left alliance won 37 seats, which would give their government a comfortable, 108-seat majority.

Babis’ ANO won 72 seats, six fewer than it did in the 2017 election.

President Milos Zeman who is currently hospitalized previously said he would first give a mandate to the leader of the strongest party, not the strongest coalition, which would give Babis a chance to try to put together a viable government.

Petr Fiala, the leader of Together, is the candidate for the new prime minister.

Zeman will have to accept the resignation of the outgoing government after the opening session of the new lower house of Parliament that begins on Nov 8. He will then have to select the prime minister.