Published: Sat, January 13, 2018
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

Czechs: to pick between Zeman, pro-western challengers in presidential vote

Czechs: to pick between Zeman, pro-western challengers in presidential vote

Final polls showed the most serious challenger was non-partisan academic Jiri Drahos.

Before the second round of the previous presidential election in 2013, Babis told daily Hospodarske noviny (HN) he would vote for Zeman's rival Karel Schwarzenberg because Zeman continued with the capitalist mafia and corruption style of former president Vaclav Klaus. They also appoint central bankers and judges and are pivotal in forming governments - a process the European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation member country is now going through.

Zeman has been accused of being too close to Russian President Vladimir Putin and has called Russia's annexation of the Crimean peninsula an 'accomplished fact.' He has also been very critical in the EU's enablement of massive Islamic immigration.

The woman ran from a crowd of reporters at the Prague polling station and stood directly in front of Zeman, 73, who was preparing to present his identification to the election commission, Reuters reported.

If none of the candidates could win an absolute majority of the vote, the second round will be held two weeks later, on January 26-27.

Zeman was quickly escorted out and returned to cast his vote shortly afterwards.

Zeman should do well in the first round due to fragmentation among opposition candidates sharing the same generally pro-EU platform. "But anyway he is targeting different voters to Zeman", Mlejnek said.


Soon after that initial results will indicate which two candidates are likely to contest the expected run-off vote.

Two political newcomers, the former president of the Academy of Sciences, Jiri Drahos, and popular song writer Michal Horacek are considered his major challengers.

The CTK news agency pegged turnout at 40% after day one of voting. Now Babis said he did not have enough information at the time when he was entering politics and the ANO movement criticised traditional political parties, including the power-sharing pact of the right-wing ODS of Klaus and the Social Democrats (CSSD) of Zeman.

The outcome may influence Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis's chances of finally forming a cabinet as his first attempt to rule in a minority administration is likely to be rejected by parliament next week.

While he has won support among many Czechs by criticizing intellectual elites, they say he's sown doubt over whether the country of 10.6 million people should remain in the world's largest trading bloc.

Zeman has backed Babis even as the billionaire businessman has struggled to get support from political parties while he battles police allegations that he illegally obtained European Union subsidies a decade ago.

Zeman has been the most outspoken on migration, linking Muslim immigration to security threats, and he reiterated his views in a television appearance on Thursday. "Data also show a deepening rift between cities and the countryside".

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