PRAGUE: Czechs began voting yesterday in a two-day snap election that will likely see them hand power to the left-wing opposition in frustration over years of graft and austerity.
Polling stations opened at 2pm local time (1200 GMT) to end months of political turmoil set off by a spy and bribery scandal that brought down the centre-right government of Petr Necas.
Voters already made a sharp left turn in January, electing ex-Communist Milos Zeman as president after a decade under the right-wing and eurosceptic Vaclav Klaus.
The Social Democrats (CSSD) topped pre-vote opinion polls but whether they will team up with the Communists or a breakout populist party remains unknown. “No clear majority coalition is in the cards,” Jan Outly, a political analyst at the Metropolitan University in Prague, said.
Coalition governments lacking comfortable majorities are the norm on the fragmented Czech political scene. Smaller parties or independent MPs must often be wooed for support. The latest opinion survey gave 26 percent of the vote to the Social Democrats, 18 percent to the Communists and 16.5 percent to the populist party ANO led by billionaire Andrej Babis.
The Slovak-born farming tycoon — who sells everything from foodstuffs to fertiliser — has capitalised on the blow dealt to the right by the June bribery scandal.
Social Democrat leader Bohuslav Sobotka says his party could go it alone in a minority government in the 200-seat parliament, relying on the Communists’ tacit support.
But many Czechs are incensed by the prospect of the far-left becoming a powerbroker for the first time since the Velvet Revolution brought down totalitarianism over two decades ago.
Anti-communists hoisted a massive banner of Russian President Vladimir Putin dressed as Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin atop a central Prague hill yesterday. Behind it stands the “Time Machine”, a huge pendulum installed in 1991 — two years after communism fell — where a massive statue of Stalin once stood.