Czech PM’s ANO party wins 10 of 13 regional elections amidst Covid-19 uptick

Photo: ČTK / Jaroslav Ožana

Prime Minister Andrej Babiš’s ANO party, as expected, has won the regional assembly elections that ended on Saturday afternoon, capturing over 22 percent of the vote overall and placing first in 10 of 13 contests, according to unofficial results. A third of the seats in the Senate, 27 in total, were also being contested; nearly all will be decided by a second (run-off) round of voting next weekend.

Photo: ČTK / Luboš Pavlíček

Local administrations hold far less power than the central cabinet in Prague, but the regional ballot this weekend – about a year before general elections – is an important measure of voter support. The results appear to signal confidence in the government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, despite a recent uptick, and its plan to weather the economic fallout.

In the regional contests, the opposition Pirate Party placed second overall, with about 12 percent of the vote. The centre-left Social Democrats (ČSSD) – ANO’s junior government coalition partner – garnered less than 5 percent of the vote, as did the unreformed Communist Party (KSČM), which have tolerated Babiš’s government in exchange for policy concessions.

ODS,  photo: ČTK / Michal Kamaryt

The centre-right Civic Democrats (ODS) won nearly 7 percent of the vote, the right-wing Party for Direct Democracy (SPD) and centrist Party of Mayors and Independents (STAN) about 6 percent each and the Christian Democrats (KDU-ČSL) about 5 percent. In a coalition with the ODS, the centre-right TOP 09 party won 4 percent of the vote. No other party or coalition garnered more than 2.5 percent, with most getting less than 1 percent.

As of Saturday evening, ANO appeared to have won the Moravian-Silesian, South Moravian, Olomouc, Pardubice, Vysočina, Ústí nad Labem, Karlovy Vary and Plzeň regions for certain. A coalition called the Mayors for the Liberec Region (SLK) won that region while in the Hradec Králové region, a coalition of ODS, STAN and Východočeši emerged the victors.

Results of regional elections,  source: Czech Radio

The official regional assembly results will be published on Tuesday (October 6) in the Collection of Laws. In total, the posts of 675 regional assembly members, elected to four-year terms, were contested by 9,711 candidates, representing or aligned with a total of 85 parties or coalitions. Unlike the other 13 regions, Prague did not hold elections.

Senate races: STAN, ODS and ANO do best, ČSSD worst; Žantovský, Němcová advance

Senators are elected to six-year terms, with one-third of seats contested every two years. In the first round of voting, a total of 235 candidates were vying for 27 open seats in the 81-member upper house of Parliament. STAN, ODS and ANO had the greatest successes, while the ČSSD, who were defending 10 mandates, faired poorly, failing to advance to the second round of voting (run-offs) to be held next weekend in most cases. Several KDU-ČSL candidates, with the backing of other parties, are still in the running but none from the KSČM or SPD, advanced to round two.

Michael Žantovský,  photo: ČTK / Roman Vondrouš

Among the more closely watched Senate races were two for different districts in the Czech capital, Prague. Former ambassador Michael Žantovský – backed by ODS, STAN and TOP 09 – will face Václav Láska (Senator 21) in the run-off, after a close race, while former speaker of the lower house Miroslava Němcová (ODS), fell just shy of getting 50 percent of the vote and will face incumbent Václav Hampl (independent), a former Charles University rector, who got just 20 percent.

Turnout higher than in 2016, despite Covid-19

Despite the current uptick in Covid-19 cases, which has led the government to declare another State of Emergency, beginning on Monday (October 5), voter turnout is estimated to have been a couple of percentage points higher than in the 2016 elections, when it reached 35 percent.

Photo: ČTK / Miroslav Chaloupka

Regular voting took place in two rounds, on Friday (2pm-10 pm) and on Saturday (8am-2pm). People with Covid-19 or in quarantine could vote earlier in the week at special drive-in points. Those in hospital, old-age homes or in similar circumstances could use mobile voting stations.

According to early estimates, voter turnout was highest in the regions of Hradec Králové, Zlín and Vysočina, at above 40 percent, and lowest in Prague, where only senatorial elections were held, at less than 33 percent. Participation was lower than the national average in North Moravia and West and North-western Bohemia.