Czech President Milos Zeman (d) addresses members of Parliament on 10 January 2018 in Prague
The Czechs go to the polls on Friday and Saturday to choose between their outgoing president Milos Zeman, pro-Russian and anti-Muslim, slightly favorite, and his pro-European rivals, more liberal.
The vote promises to be difficult for the veteran of the left of 73 years who is seeking a second five years. Among the eight other candidates in the running, his main rival is the former head of the Academy of Sciences, Jiri Drahos.
„Of course I’m nervous,“ Zeman admitted in an interview on the front page of the Prague daily Dnes on Thursday.
The Czech betting companies quoted Thursday Mr. Zeman from 1.5 to 1.67 and Mr. Drahos from 2.75 to 2.95, a smaller figure corresponding to a higher probability of being elected.
However, according to a survey conducted in early January, the former head of the Academy of Sciences, 68 years and in great shape, could win in the second round, scheduled for January 26 and 27, with 48.5% against 44 % to the outgoing president.
– ‚National character‘ –
Liberal centrist candidate Jiri Drahos, January 2, 2018 in Prague
„I have to be ready for my position to be very difficult in the second round,“ Zeman said, before complaining about the „Czech national character“, which means that „those who lose come together to bring down the podium. the one who is ahead of them too much „.
Mr. Zeman, who refused to participate in the electoral debates, is supported by rural communities and manual workers. In a country that is largely hostile to immigration, he finds favorably when he describes the migration crisis as an „organized invasion“ and describes Muslims as „impossible to integrate“.
The liberal centrist Drahos is the preferred candidate for intellectuals and inhabitants of big cities. Resolutely pro-European, he thinks that Prague must „play a more active role in the EU“.
In a televised debate broadcast Thursday night, he attacked Zeman on his domestic policy.
A head of state should „bring more culture to the political scene,“ he said, in an allusion to the sudden manners of the outgoing president.
„Why is the lower house so full of arguments, it is President Zeman’s fault,“ said Drahos, blaming him for supporting the minority government of his populist ally Andrej Babis and let him govern for as long as he wants, „although he has formally resigned.
Indeed, the presidential election is held in parallel with the laborious formation of a new government from the legislative elections of October 2017.
– Prime Minister’s support –
In mid-December, Zeman appointed a minority cabinet headed by populist billionaire Andrej Babis, which in all likelihood will not get the confidence of Parliament.
Babis, whose centrist ANO movement holds 78 of the 200 seats in the lower house, Thursday backed Zeman.
„It’s a declaration of Andrej Babis, not the movement’s, it’s not an appeal to our constituents, and if I say I’ll vote Milos Zeman, it will not be a surprise,“ he said. Thursday on public TV.
The constitution allows the president to make a second attempt to appoint the head of government, and Zeman, whose term only expires in early March, has already announced that he will still choose Mr. Babis, despite suspicions of fraud. European endowments that weigh on him.
He admitted that the formation of the government could take „months“, leaving in place the current minority cabinet.
Successful businessman and songwriter Michal Horacek, former right-wing Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, former ambassador to France Pavel Fischer, doctor and civic activist Marek Hilser are also among the rivals of M Zeman.
Just like Vratislav Kulhanek, former boss of car manufacturer Skoda, Jiri Hynek, director of the Association of Defense and Security Industry, and Petr Hannig, composer and singer.
Polling stations open at 1300 GMT Friday to close at 2100 GMT. Saturday, they will run between 07:00 and 13:00 GMT. The first significant results should be known a few hours after the close of the polls.