Czech opposition party wins most major cities in local election

FILE PHOTO: Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala speaks during an interview in Prague

PRAGUE (Reuters) - Former Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis's opposition ANO party won most of the country's major cities in municipal elections seen as a test for the ruling coalition's handling of the energy crisis.

The Czech Republic, similar to other European Union member countries, has been struggling with soaring inflation pushed up mainly by high energy prices. The opposition has been saying that the government of Prime Minister Petr Fiala has done too little too late to help the people.

Czechs voted in more than 6,000 municipalities on Friday and Saturday, with the final results declared on Sunday morning due to a complicated system of vote distribution.

The ANO party, in opposition since last autumn, won in 17 out of 27 large cities, but it came second in the two largest ones - the capital Prague and Brno, where parties of the current ruling coalition won.

The most seats in the local assemblies - 38,099 out of the total 61,796 - go to various groups of independent candidates, which tend to score the most in this kind of election.

Among the individual parties, ANO came out behind two parties of the ruling coalition, Prime Minister Fiala's Civic Democrats, and the Christian Democrats.

Czechs also voted in the first round of the parliament's upper chamber election, where one third of the Senate's 81 seats are contested. Three seats were filled already in the first round.

In the second round to be held next weekend, the opposition ANO will have 17 candidates, the ruling coalition will have 19, with the remainder filled in by other parties and independents.

Regardless of the second round results, the ruling coalition will maintain its majority in the Senate.

(Reporting by Robert Muller; editing by David Evans)