Slavkov u Brna - Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (Social Democrats, CSSD) said he believes the current elections will change the balance of forces in the European Parliament (EP) for the benefit of the left, after he cast his vote today.
Předseda vlády a ČSSD Bohuslav Sobotka odevzdal 23. května ve Slavkově u Brna svůj hlas ve volbách do Evropského parlamentu. ČTK Šálek Václav
The CSSD and the ANO movement of Finance Minister Andrej Babis are among the favourites of the election, which is held in the Czech Republic today and tomorrow.
"We want the European Union to support investment, to help create new jobs, to more fight against tax evasion," Sobotka said.
He said he is convinced that the EU allows Czechs to push through their national interests.
"Thanks to it we can approach our neighbours and large states on an equality basis," Sobotka said and added that the EP´s powers are bigger and bigger.
The Czechs started to choose their 21 MEPs this afternoon. The elections will end at 14:00 CEST on Saturday. The results will be released late at night on Sunday.
Babis said Czechs should follow a single line in the EP. "The 21 mandates represent a relatively small influence, but we must be heard," Babis said.
He said ANO supports neither a tighter integration, nor the single European currency, euro.
ANO is not represented in the outgoing parliament because it was only established in 2011.
Babis´s partner, Monika, had to cast her ballot twice because she did not put it in an envelope for the first time.
Former foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg, chairman of TOP 09 which is now in opposition, who also cast his vote this afternoon, said he is afraid the number of extremists, nationalists and populists in the EP will rise.
He said he expects turnout to be weak and added that he hopes it will at least cross 25 percent.
Schwarzenberg said people should realise that the EP is deciding on more and more issues.
Deputy Prime Minister Pavel Belobradek, chairman of the junior government Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL), said he would be satisfied if his party defended the two mandates it has now, after he cast his vote.
He said on European level, the Christian Democrats will be pushing for support for economic growth, quality food and families.
Petr Fiala, chairman of the formerly senior government Civic Democrats (ODS) who are now in opposition, said he would be satisfied with any number of votes that would mean that his party will gain more percent than in last year´s general election (7.72 percent).
The ODS will probably dramatically lose compared with the 2009 European election, in which it gained nine mandates thanks to more than 31 percent of the vote.
Communists (KSCM) chairman Vojtech Filip said "though I am an optimist, this time I will be rather pessimistic. I suppose turnout will be weak, I estimate it at 20 to 25 percent."
He added that he believes the KSCM will minimally defend its four mandates.
The voting of Tomio Okamura, chairman of the opposition Dawn of Direct Democracy which many evaluate as a populist grouping, was shot by the Japanese Nihon TV station.
The television has chosen Okamura, who comes from a Japanese-Czech family, for its document about four successful half-Japanese living in various parts of the world.
"It is quite a coincidence. They did not know at all that the elections will be held here," Okamura said.