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Prime minister's party loses Czech Senate majority

Prime minister's party loses Czech Senate majority

Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek's conservative party lost its majority in the Czech Senate on Saturday when the main opposition Social Democrats won all but four of 26 open seats.
The result jeopardizes Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek's position as head of the Civic Democrat Party but lawmakers loyal to his governing coalition retain the majority in the Senate, meaning that the government's chances of winning approval for a missile-defense deal with the United States are unaffected.
It was the best-ever result for the left-leaning Social Democrats in Senate elections. Social Democratic chairman and former Premier Jiri Paroubek called the victory "epochal."
The opposition party had campaigned on criticism of the government's plans for placing a U.S. missile-defense radar base in the country, among other issues.
The Civic Democrats lost their 41-seat majority in the 81-seat Senate but still have 35 seats. That leaves Topolanek's three-party governing coalition with the 43-seat majority necessary to ensure the missile plan's Senate passage.
The Social Democrats now have a total of 29 Senate seats.
The Parliament's lower house dominates the Czech legislative process but the Senate must approve the missile-defense deal.
The government has too few seats in the lower chamber to guarantee its passage and would need the help of opposition votes.