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Swing to left in early Czech poll results

The Czech Republic appears to have swung to the left as partial results emerge after a snap parliamentary election spread over two days. The Social Democrats have said they might govern with tacit help from Communists.

Czech Social Democrats were poised to form a minority government Saturday as parliamentary election results were counted. If pre-poll surveys were accurate, seven years of scandal-tainted rule by center-right parties look set to end.

An early partial result midafternoon, based on a quarter of votes counted, suggested that the Social Democrats were on 22 percent, with 18.6 percent for the new centrist movement ANO and about 18 percent for the Communists.

Social Democrat and former Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka plans to introduce new taxes on banks, utilities and high earners to pay for programs and has said he would rely on tacit support from the Communists.

His center-left CSSD party, out of power since 2006, had been tipped in pre-poll surveys to draw 25 percent support amid voter disquiet over painful budget cuts by the incumbent center-right government' and its handling of scandals.

Former premier Petr Necas was replaced by a technocrat prime minister in June amid an affair over illegal surveillance and bribery. Necas' Civil Democrats are tipped to win only 6.5 percent.

The new protest party Action for Alienated Citizens (ANO), led by the billionaire and businessman Andrej Babis, has promised to clean up politics.

The Czech Republic, home to 10.5 million people and an EU member, has existed since its 1993 split from Slovakia. That followed the collapse of communism and four decades of totalitarian rule in the former Czechoslovakia.

Polling stations had opened on Friday afternoon and closed 24 hours later on Saturday. Unlike other EU countries, predictions via exit polls were not expected.

The 200 seats in the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house, were contested by nearly 5,900 candidates.

ipj/mkg (Reuters, AFP, dpa)