Czech Republic voters move to right in general election

A man bicycles past an election poster for the Civic Democratic Party, featuring leader Petr Necas (left) and leader of the opposing Social Democrats Jiri Paroubek (right). It had been expected that no party would win an overall majority

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Results from the Czech Republic's general election suggest centre-right parties will form the next government.

Left-wing Social Democrats won most votes in the election, with 22%, but did far worse than opinion polls had been suggesting.

Jiri Paroubek quickly quit as leader of the party, saying the country was "on track for a right-wing coalition".

The conservative Civic Democrats have 20.2%, but potential allies could boost that towards a majority.

One of them, TOP09, has 16.7%, while the centrist Public Affairs party has 10.9%.

It is still unclear who will become prime minister.

The big campaign issues included cutting the deficit, pension reform and stamping out corruption.

The country has had an interim administration since the centre-right government was toppled halfway through the country's European Union presidency in March 2009.

Low debt levels

The BBC's Rob Cameron in Prague said Mr Paroubek would have had the first chance to form a government but the numbers simply did not add up.

Mr Paroubek himself said: "It seems that people have chosen the direction the republic should go in and it is a different direction than the one the Social Democrats were offering.

"For me personally it leads to the result of leaving the post of head of the Social Democrat party."

The centre-right parties favour big budget cuts to try to stave off a financial crisis similar to the one that has enveloped Greece.

Civic Democrat election leader Petr Necas said of the result: "It is great news that will allow the Czech Republic to avoid a repeat of the Greek scenario."

Our correspondent says a centre-right cluster could come together but it could take politicians weeks - or even months - to form a new government.

Voting took place over two days - a full day on Friday, followed by a half-day on Saturday.

Turnout was put at 62.1%.

A total of 25 parties, fielding some 5,000 candidates, competed for 200 seats in the lower house of the Czech parliament.

Opinion polls ahead of the election had put support for the Social Democrats at about 30%.

The Czech Republic has managed to sail through the worst of the economic crisis, thanks to relatively low levels of debt and continued growth, our correspondent says.

But he adds that analysts say big problems such as an unsustainable pension system are being ignored.

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