Tuesday, 23 January, 2018

Milos Zeman: outspoken pro-Russian, anti-migrant Czech president

Presidential elections tests the power Euro scepticism and anti-immigrant sentiment in the Czech Republic Czech elections: Here's all you need to know about the latest challenge to European unity
Melinda Barton | 14 January, 2018, 15:06

His opponent Dragos, the 69-year-old former chairman of the Czech Academy of Sciences, garnered 26.6% of the vote, or 1,369,601 votes in total.

"Mr. Drahos said that he would like to meet me face to face". Songwriter Michal Horacek finished fourth with 9.2 percent, ahead of physician Marek Hilser, who had 8.8 percent.

The combined voter support for the three more minor candidates stood at 28.15 percent with 99.13 percent of the vote counted.

Zeman, 73, was elected in 2013 during the country's first direct presidential vote, a victory that returned the former left-leaning prime minister to power. A former diplomat, Pavel Fischer, placed third with 10.1 percent.

Czech presidents have limited executive powers, but Zeman and his predecessors have had a strong influence on public debate.

'I voted for professor Drahos because I want someone who will not push us to the East and who will not be a disgrace, ' said lawyer Matej Gredl, 30, after he voted in Prague.

Election officials said voter turnout was 61.9 percent in the preliminary election.

"Drahos has made it very clear that a prosecuted man should not be prime minister", Pehe said. Challenger Drahos, 68, looks set to pick up many votes from those who had supported now-eliminated candidates.

In one example in October, then Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka accused Zeman of interfering in Czech foreign affairs and contradicting the government when he repeated his stance against European Union sanctions on Russian Federation over the Ukraine crisis while defending Russia's annexation of the Crimean peninsula as irreversible.

The Czech Republic has a tiny Muslim minority and has seen only a few of the hundreds of thousands of people coming to Europe in recent years to seek safety from war or better life.

Zeman has forged close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and his speeches have become known for their nationalist and anti-immigrant rhetoric similar to that heard among the nationalist governments in Poland and Hungary, which oppose mandatory refugee quotas being pushed by Brussels.

"If Drahos wins, the image of the president will be different than in the Zeman era because Drahos is an intellectual without a radical vision or appeals", said Lubomir Kopecek, a political analyst at Masaryk University in the city of Brno. A professor of chemistry, he headed the academy from 2009 until previous year.