Despite a Populist Triumph, the Czech Republic Isn’t Going the Way of Poland

Despite a Populist Triumph, the Czech Republic Isn’t Going the Way of Poland
Andrej Babis, the Czech billionaire and leader of the ANO, adjusts his tie after meeting with Czech President Milos Zeman, Lany, Czech Republic, Oct. 23, 2017 (AP photo by Petr David Josek).

PRAGUE—Mainstream political parties in Central Europe have struggled in a series of recent elections to overcome their self-described anti-establishment rivals. In the Czech Republic’s legislative election on Oct. 20 and 21, the challenge proved too much, but that doesn’t mean the country is about to ditch democracy.

Taking full advantage of an electorate that has grown cynical since the fall of communism 28 years ago, billionaire Andrej Babis drove his populist ANO party to an emphatic victory. Taking 30 percent of the vote, Babis’ party scored close to three times the support of its nearest rival. It was little surprise.

The collapse of the Czech political mainstream, though, was more unexpected. The Social Democrat Party, or CSSD, which leads the outgoing government that also includes ANO, came away from the polls with a historic low of just 7 percent of the vote. It can blame a surge from the far-right Freedom and Direct Democracy, or SPD, and the anti-establishment Pirate Party.

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