October 13, 2018 / 4:13 PM / 9 days ago

Czech opposition scores win in Senate elections

PRAGUE (Reuters) - The strongest Czech opposition party, the Civic Democrats, won the most seats in a Senate election, results showed on Saturday, although the victory is unlikely to rattle Prime Minister Andrej Babis’s minority government.

A third of seats in parliament’s upper chamber were contested, almost a year after lower house elections that brought Babis’s ANO party to power.

The lower house is the country’s main legislative body and the government can override Senate vetoes. Turnout for voting in the second round of the Senate election, held on Friday and Saturday, was just 16.5 percent, well shy of the 60.8 percent seen in the 2017 lower house elections.

Still, the Senate confirms presidential nominations for judges sitting on the constitutional court, and the speaker of the upper house is the second-highest ranking state official after the president.

The Civic Democrats won 10 of the 27 seats being contested this year while ANO took only one. The Social Democrats, ANO’s partner in the coalition government, also won only a single seat.

The election marked the first time in more than two decades that the Communist Party, which ruled the former Czechoslovakia when it was a Soviet satellite, will have no Senate representation as its only candidate was defeated.

Babis has leaned on support from the Communists in lower house votes since installing his minority government earlier this year.

ANO was still the strongest party in municipal elections last weekend and leads in opinion polls, with 30 percent support in a CVVM survey, double that of the second-placed Civic Democrats.

Saturday’s election result will make the Civic Democrats the second strongest party in the upper chamber after the Mayors and Independents party.

Reporting by Jason Hovet; editing by David Stamp

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