Czech Finance Minister's party maintains lead ahead of October election - Median agency

PRAGUE (Reuters) - A centrist party led by Czech Finance Minister Andrej Babis maintained its lead ahead of the centre-left Social Democrats of Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka in March, a poll showed on Thursday, although the projected gap was narrower than in other polls.

The Median agency poll gave the ANO party set up and led by Babis -- worth $3.4 billion, just shy of U.S. President Donald Trump according to Forbes -- 28.5 percent support, 8 points ahead of the Social Democrats. Both parties lost support compared to a February poll by the same agency.

No party is likely to win an outright majority in the election, unofficially announced by President Milos Zeman for October 20-21, making another coalition government probable.

Opponents of Babis have been accusing him of conflicts of interests as a businessman and politician.

Babis has built up the chemicals, food and media Agrofert group into the country's largest private employer since the 1990s but shifted the firm a trust fund earlier this year to comply with a new conflicts of interests law.

Growth in wages and welfare are among the main themes of this year's general election. After three years of economic expansion, the Czech Republic has the lowest unemployment rate in the European Union at 3.4 percent, according to Eurostat.

The ruling centre-left coalition has already agreed a number of steps to win support, including faster pension growth, pay hikes for policemen, other emergency workers and teachers, or pushing for stricter rules for mobile operators.

According to Median, up to nine parties could win seats in the 200-seat lower house of parliament.

(Reporting by Robert Muller; Editing by Jan Lopatka)

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