Leader of Social Democrats asked by president to form new Czech coalition government

Czech President Milos Zeman has officially asked the leader of the first-place party in last month's parliamentary election to open talks on forming a new government.

The left-wing Social Democrats emerged as the strongest party in the ballot, winning 50 seats in the 200-seat lower house of parliament. The new centrist ANO (YES) movement led by billionaire Andrej Babis was second, with 47 seats.

After meeting Zeman on Thursday, Social Democratic leader Bohuslav Sobotka said Zeman asked him to put together a coalition backed by a parliamentary majority.

Sobotka said there's "a real chance" to create a coalition by the year's end with ANO and the Christian Democrats, who won 14 seats.

If he succeeds, Sobotka will become the prime minister.