Czech billionaire Andrej Babis scored a resounding victory in the parliamentary elections on Saturday, the latest EU state to see a surge in support for anti-establishment parties, notably the SPD.
With 99 percent of polling stations having already announced their results, Babis’s ANO party won 29.7 percent of the vote, almost 20 percentage points ahead of its nearest rival.
Two other anti-establishment groups, the Pirate party and the conservative anti-EU SPD, claimed third and fourth place, respectively.
The SPD, headed by Tomio Okamura, campaigned on an uncompromisingly anti-immigrant platform, and also demanded a referendum on pulling the Czech Republic out of the EU.
The BBC’s correspondent in Prague, Rob Cameron, said the SPD’s performance was particularly noteworthy, as the party wants to ban Islam in Czechia. Its leader has urged Czechs to walk pigs near mosques.
Jiri Pehe, director of New York University in Prague, noted how Okamura had been successful in rallying voters who had previously voted for a variety of parties.
“This is an earthquake. It’s a total revolt against the established parties and the mainstream,” Milan Nic, of the German Council on Foreign Relations told the British Financial Times. “Since the 1990s I can’t recall elections that changed the political landscape so much.”
ANO’s victory follows in the wake of a strong showing for the National Front in France’s presidential election, the entry of the AfD into Germany’s Bundestag, and significant gains for the Freedom party in Austria. Babis too, was highly critical of the EU’s migrant policies.
Overall, Czech traditional parties performed dismally, despite a booming economy and one of the lowest unemployment rates in the EU.
The Social Democrats saw their vote share collapse from 20.5 in 2013 to 7.3 percent this year. The Christian Democrats declined from 6.8 to 5.8 percent.
ANO’s deputy chairman Jaroslav Faltynek said it would talk to all parties in parliament to set up a coalition. The Civic Democrats have ruled out joining a coalition with ANO, which means that the winning party will need a three-party coalition to secure a majority.
While Babis has “invited everyone for talks”, he was not prepared to “cooperate” with either the conservatives, anti-EU Freedom and Direct Democracy party or the Communist Party.
He has promised not bring the Czech Republic in to the eurozone but he wants the country to stay in the EU. Babis told Reuters he would propose changes to the European Council on issues like food quality and a “solution to migration”.