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Czech presidential election starts

14 January, 2018, 00:37 | Author: Kristen Ingram
  • Milos Zeman outspoken pro-Russian anti-migrant Czech president

Zeman and Jiri Drahos advanced to a second round of voting because none of the nine candidates seeking the Czech Republic's largely ceremonial presidency received a majority of votes in the first round held Friday and Saturday.

The face-off, on January 26-27, is shaping up to be a clash not only of politics, but also personalities.

Shouting the same slogan, the woman ran towards Zeman, who is running for a second term, in the polling station in the Czech capital, Prague, before being quickly wrestled to the ground by Zeman's bodyguards.

While most Czechs share his views on immigration, Mr Zeman's inclination towards far-right groups and his warm relations with Russian Federation and China have split public opinion, with a sizeable chunk of the electorate favouring pro-western candidates, including 68-year-old academic Mr Drahos.

Voting has ended in the first round of the Czech Republic's presidential election, and early results show the anti-migrant incumbent with a huge lead.

However, in a press conference given with the vote-counting almost over, Zeman said he is ready to conduct live debates with Drahos.

Drahos could not be more different.

Zeman once called the 2015 migrant crisis "an organized invasion" of Europe, and has said that Muslims were "impossible to integrate".

With ballots from 95 per cent of polling stations counted by the Czech Statistics Office, Zeman had a big lead with 39.3 per cent of the vote, followed by Drahos with 26.3 per cent. A mild-mannered liberal centrist whom critics have dubbed "wishy-washy", he has called for Prague to "play a more active role in the EU" and has backed the adoption of the euro currency.

Security personnel also had to help a visibly rattled Zeman, who walks with a cane, to leave the room.

Zeman's stance against migration has been a vote victor in the country, which has clashed with the European Commission over its refusal to accept migrants under quotas set by a vote by EU leaders.

"This looks hopeful", Mr Drahos told supporters and reporters at a Prague theatre after most results had come in.

"The president should work to unite society".

Independent analyst Jiri Pehe said the vote highlighted a "polarized" society.

Zeman's other rivals include ex-gambler and songwriter Michal Horacek, and former rightwing premier Mirek Topolanek.

Under the Czech constitution, the president has the power to pick the prime minister, and to appoint members of the Central Bank board.

Babis's populist ANO movement won last October's general elections with its anti-corruption and anti-euro campaign, but the Slovak-born tycoon facing police charges over European Union funding fraud failed to woo coalition partners.

The billionaire businessman said he would vote for Mr Zeman, 73, for his honesty, political experience and defence of national interests.

With President Zeman all but declaring for Babis and no signs that the latter would be able to form a government before Zeman's term expires in early March, a new president may find himself in the position of calling for snap elections if Zeman has not already appointment him prime minister.

"Drahos has made it very clear that a prosecuted man should not be prime minister", Pehe said.



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