Czech populist leader narrowly defeated in election

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“He succeeded in making migration one of the main issues of the election, but the anti-immigrant discourse was not enough; he lost, ”said Otto Eibl, director of the political science department of Masaryk University in Brno, the second most populous city in the Czech Republic, in a telephone interview.

The election, he added, did not revolve around political choices but “was a referendum on Andrej Babis”.

Neither the opposition coalition nor Mr. Babis won an absolute majority of seats, but a small party that Mr. Babis had previously relied on to form a government failed to win any seats, paving the way for rivals to form a majority in the legislature.

“People were fed up with the populist and short-term politics of Andrej Babis,” said Petr Fiala, former political scientist and university rector who led the anti-Babis coalition and is now in the best position to become prime minister . “We want to play normal, competent and decent politics and people believed in us.”

“The change we promised is here. And we will succeed, ”added Mr. Fiala, speaking on television as the last votes were being counted.

To do this, however, he must form an alliance with the Pirates, an anti-establishment party that supports same-sex marriage and other progressive causes, which many of Mr. Fiala’s more conservative supporters reject.

The results, while far from a decisive victory for the opposition, delivered an unexpected rebuke to Mr Babis, a tycoon who dominated the Czech political scene for nearly a decade, mixing right-wing populist rhetoric and politicians. traditionally left-wing like pensions. increases and support for disadvantaged people.

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