Czech PM’s party wins big in regional ballot amid pandemic

PRAGUE (AP) — The senior party in the Czech Republic’s coalition government dominated the country’s regional elections and is ahead in the first round of voting for Parliament’s upper house, according to results released Saturday.

The Czech Statistics Office said that with ballots from almost 100% of polling stations counted, the ANO (YES) movement led by Prime Minister Andrej Babis won 10 of the 13 regions contested during voting on Friday and Saturday.

The result was a sign of a stable support for ANO, which won nine regions in 2016.

“It’s an excellent result,” Babis said.

ANO also has the most candidates advancing to the runoffs for 27 seats in the 81-seat Senate. The top two finishers in each district will face each other in a head-to-head vote next weekend.

With ballots from 99% of stations counted, ANO had nine candidates advancing to the runoffs.

The elections were the first held in the Czech Republic during the coronavirus pandemic. Face masks were required at voting places.

Quarantined voters had the option of casting ballots from vehicles at temporary polling stations across the country.

Those who were unable to use a car or venture out could ask a special electoral committee to send a ballot box to their homes.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, quarantined voters were not allowed to cast ballots, although their numbers were relatively low.

The Czech Republic is seeing an increase of new confirmed virus cases. The number of cases reported Friday was 3,793. The country has a total of 79,475 confirmed cases, including 709 deaths.

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