Czech court opens way for smaller parties before October election

PRAGUE, Feb 3 (Reuters) - The Czech Republic’s Constitutional Court on Wednesday cancelled parts of the country’s election laws that favoured bigger political parties, leaving lawmakers scrambling to agree amendments before a planned parliamentary election in October.

The ruling forces lawmakers to change how the number of mandates in the 200-seat lower house of parliament are calculated. The court deemed the current method unfair to smaller parties, which had to win more votes to gain one seat that larger parties.

The changes could have an impact on Oct. 8-9 elections. Changes to the law are likely to result in giving more mandates to smaller parties at the expense of larger.

Billionaire Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis’s ANO party is looking to extend his rule and holds a poll lead. But ANO is unlikely to win a majority, so Babis faces challenges in finding coalition partners.

After the last election in October 2017, Babis’s ANO party got 78 seats with 19,232 votes for each one, compared with 43,693 votes the opposition STAN party needed for one of its six seats.

The law has to be amended before the October vote, leaving the two chambers of parliament with much less time than it usually takes to enact legislation.

The court also cancelled a part of the law which sets the threshold for multiple parties running together to enter parliament at 5% multiplied by the number of parties in a pre-election coalition. (Reporting by Robert Muller and Jason Hovet, editing by Larry King)