After eight years of rule by a center-right government, Czechs gave the opposition Social Democrats a victory in parliamentary elections, officials said Saturday.
The leftist party's triumph in weekend elections appeared likely to continue a stalemate that has plagued Czech politics for two years, with no group clearly in control.According to the preliminary voting results, the leftists were expected to win 75 seats in the 200-seat legislature - far short of a majority needed to form the Czech Republic's first left-wing government.
Party leader Milos Zeman and the leaders of three other mainstream parties meet President Vaclav Havel on Monday for what many expect to be difficult coalition talks. A center-right coalition has held power since the 1989 collapse of Communism.
With 98 percent of the vote counted late Saturday, the Social Democrats had 32.4 percent to 27.6 for the center-right Civic Democratic Party of ex-premier Vaclav Klaus.
Few analysts saw the outcome as one that could break the political deadlock since Klaus narrowly lost 1996 elections, forming a minority, three-party coalition government that was unable to resolve key outstanding questions such as privatizing state banks.
"The results of the election is what was expected ... a stalemate," Jiri Pehe, political adviser to Havel, told Nova television. "It will be very difficult to form a government."
More than 76 percent of the country's 8.1 million Czech voters cast ballots in the elections Friday and Saturday for the 200 deputies in parliament's lower house.
Three other parties had also cleared the 5 percent threshold needed for parliamentary representation: the Communists, the center-right Christian Democrats and center-right Freedom Union, a new party favored by Havel and formed mostly of rebels against Klaus.