Czech Social Democrats have won a slim victory in a parliamentary election but face tough task forming a government after anger over sleaze and budget cuts propelled new protest parties into parliament.
With all the votes counted on Saturday by the Czech Statistics Office, the left-wing Social Democratic Party (CSSD) won 20.45 percent, or 50 seats, in the 200-seat lower house of Parliament.
The party's ally, the Communists, finished third, receiving 14.91 percent of the vote, or 33 seats.
In an outcome echoing the success of anti-establishment parties elsewhere in Europe such as Beppe Grillo's 5-Star movement in Italy, the big winner was an anti-graft movement ANO (Yes) led by Slovak-born billionaire businessman Andrej Babis.
ANO, launched just two years ago and languishing in opinion polls until late in the election campaign, took second place with 18.65 percent, or 47 seats.
The election result leaves the central European country of 10.5 million people facing the prospect of protracted political haggling and of another weak and unstable government just as the Czech economy emerges from a lengthy recession.
It also dashes Sobotka's hopes of forming a minority government with the parliamentary support of the Communists because the two parties cannot muster a majority.
"If the lower house of parliament is fragmented, we will face tough negotiations on forming government," said Sobotka.
"The Social Democrats are prepared to take on this tough negotiation and we will try to form a reasonable, stable cabinet," he said, adding he was ready to talk to all parties except the centre-right parties who led the last government.
The new populist Dawn of Direct Democracy movement got 6.88 percent, while Christian Democrats returned to Parliament after a three-year absence with 6.78 percent. Both those parties now have 14 seats.
The Social Democrats said they are ready to open negotiations about forming a new government with any party except the Civic Democrats and the TOP 09 party.
"Our goal is to create a stable government," Sobotka said.