With almost all the votes counted the conservative opposition in the Czech Republic was in sight of winning the country’s general election.
Both an exit poll and declared results give Mirek Topolanek’s Civic Democrats a victory margin of varying degrees. He has already declared victory.
The poll showed that together with their preferred partners, the Christian Democrats, the conservatives would control 104 of 200 parlaimentary seats.
Despite presiding over fast economic growth the ruling Social Democrats, led by Jiri Paroubek, have been undermined by corruption scandals.
Party leaders expressed the hope the final outcome might reverse the early findings and give them and their Communist allies an edge over centre-right parties.
Analysts said voters were worried about Paroubek’s declared intention to rule as a minority government with Communist support after the vote.
Partial results give the Civic Democrats 35 percent, ahead of the Social Democrats on 32. The Communists have 13 percent – the Christian Democrats and Greens are on 7 and 6 percent respectively. They are both potential coalition partners of the Civic Democrats.
If the conservative victory is confirmed, the Czechs will be the second ex-communist EU nation after Poland to elect a mildly eurosceptic government since the bloc’s eastward enlargement.
Analysts expect a conservative-led government to be less committed than Paroubek to adopting the euro in 2010, but that it could push for reforms of the struggling pension and health systems.