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Two opposition alliances have narrowly defeated Prime Minister Andrej Babis's ANO party in the Czech parliamentary elections. The Pirates and Mayors grouping says they want to start talks on forming a government.
The Czech center-right and liberal opposition groups have won a majority in the lower house, narrowly defeating Prime Minister Andrej Babis' centrist ANO party in Saturday's parliamentary election.
The surprise development could spell the end of the populist billionaire's time in power.
Together, a liberal-conservative three-party Spolu coalition won 27.8% of the vote, while Pirates and Mayors, another opposition group, got 15.6%.
The two alliances have won a combined 108 seats in the 200-member lower house, according to the Czech Statistics Office.
The Pirates and Mayors coalition leader Ivan Bartos said they will begin talks on forming the next government.
The ruling ANO party, led by populist billionaire Babis, finished in second place, winning 27.1% of the vote, according to the latest results.
"Ano" means yes in the Czech language. Babis, a Euroskeptic, was hoping to secure a second term in office despite a turbulent first term with many scandals.
Billionnaire Babis finally accepted the results of the vote on Saturday night but not without first lashing out at his rivals.
"That's life, we understand and accept that," the 67-year-old said. But Babis accused the opposition of a "smear campaign" during the lead-up to the election.
"The change is here, we are the change," said the conservative Spolu leading candidate, Petr Fiala.
But despite the surprise result from the 65% election turnout, more drama could still unfold as the winning coalition tries to form government.
President Milos Zeman has said a number of times he will only give the mandate to a single party and not to a coalition of different political groupings.
A presidential spokesman said Zeman has invited Babis to talk about his chances of continuing in office on Sunday morning.
Before Saturday's vote, Babis led a minority coalition government consisting of ANO and the Social Democrats, with the support of the Communists.
Throughout the campaign, Babis scapegoated asylum-seekers and refugees even though the Czech Republic is not home to very many. He also condemned the EU's climate change plans.
He has not ruled out forming a coalition with Freedom and Direct Democracy, a party that seeks an exit from the EU and hopes to hold a referendum on the country's NATO membership.
This week the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists reported that Babis placed over $20 million in shell companies to purchase 16 properties in France as part of its "Pandora Papers" reports.
ar/rc (AP, Reuters)