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Czechs vote in final day of election as PM Babis seeks to cling to power

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PRAGUE, Oct 9 (Reuters) – Czechs wrap up voting in a decent election on Saturday in which Prime Minister Andrej Babis battled criticism that he mismanaged the pandemic, stoked fast-rising debt with handouts and have a tendency to his personal enterprise pursuits in workplace.

The billionaire Babis, who denies all of the accusations, and his populist ANO celebration took a slight ballot lead into the central European nation’s election, which began on Friday and closes on Saturday at 2 p.m. CET (1200 GMT).

Results will start arriving in the primary few hours after voting cubicles shut.

Babis vowed in his marketing campaign to proceed elevating public sector wages and pensions, hoping to shore up the premise of his fashionable help after years of rising prosperity.

But he confronted a robust problem from the centre-right Together coalition and the progressive Pirates/Mayors bloc that refused to work with the billionaire chief over what they stated have been his unacceptable conflicts of curiosity associated to the enterprise empire he created earlier than getting into politics.

While pre-election polls indicated the ANO was unlikely to safe a majority, Babis’s celebration seemed sure to emerge as the largest vote getter, giving the premier the primary shot at forming the subsequent authorities.

But ANO could battle to discover governing companions, with two events that backed his outgoing minority authorities in danger of dropping their decrease home seats. That might power ANO to search an alliance with the far-right Freedom and Direct Democracy Party.

His big-spending insurance policies, which he has caught with regardless of a broad restoration from the coronavirus pandemic, mark a break from conventional Czech fiscal prudence. The European Union member state’s debt is ready to be among the many quickest rising in the bloc, albeit from a low base. learn extra

The opposition additionally blame Babis for chaotic coverage adjustments throughout the pandemic, which has claimed greater than 30,000 Czech lives, one of Europe’s worst per-capita dying tolls.

Conflict of curiosity allegations, nevertheless, have been Babis’ important headache since first getting into authorities as a junior member in 2013 and after profitable his first election in 2017.

The 67-year-old put his Agrofert conglomerate of meals, agriculture, chemical and media corporations in belief funds that yr and has denied wrongdoing, saying the strikes met authorized obligations. But a European Commission audit decided in any other case and it has stopped growth grants to Agrofert.

Then final Sunday new allegations surfaced – which he additionally denied – that he used opaque offshore buildings to purchase actual property in France earlier than getting into politics.

In campaigning, Babis employed anti-migrant and anti-EU rhetoric and accused the Pirate/Mayors coalition of promoting out the nation by supporting extra European integration and eventual adoption of the euro.

Reporting by Jason Hovet
Editing by Mark Heinrich

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Czech Prime Minister and leader of ANO party, Andrej Babis, looks on ahead of casting his vote in parliamentary elections in Lovosice, Czech Republic October 8, 2021. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo

People cast their ballots during the parliamentary elections in Lovosice, Czech Republic, October 8, 2021. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo

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