The outgoing Czech president and candidate for re-election, Milos Zeman (left), and his main opponents at the polls, Pavel Fischer (above, left), Mirek Topolanek (above, right), Michal Horacek (below, left) and Jiri Drahos
The Czechs will go to the polls this Friday and Saturday to elect their president from outgoing leader Milos Zeman, pro-Russian and anti-Muslim, favorite slightly above the rest, and his pro-European rivals.
These elections could be complicated for the 73-year-old leftist veteran, who aspires to a second five-year term in the presidency. Among the eight candidates, his main rival is the former president of the Jiri Drahos Academy of Sciences.
„Of course I’m nervous,“ Zeman admitted in an interview published on Thursday on the front page of the Czech daily Dnes.
According to a poll conducted in early January, Drahos, 68, could win in the second round, scheduled for January 26 and 27, with 48.5% of the vote compared to 44% obtained by Zeman.
– National character –
„I have to expect that my position will be complicated in the second round,“ said Zeman, who complained about the „Czech national character“, which makes „those who lose join to get off the podium to those who overtake them too much“.
The outgoing president, who refused to participate in the electoral debates, enjoys the support of the rural areas and the workers. In a country where a large part of the population is opposed to immigration, its discourse on the migratory crisis, which it calls „organized invasion“, and Muslims „impossible to integrate“, seduces many.
The liberal centrist Drahos is, for his part, the favorite candidate of the intellectuals and the inhabitants of the big cities. With pro-European ideas, he considers that Prague must „play a more active role in the EU“.
In a televised debate on Thursday night, he attacked Zeman about his domestic politics.
A head of state should „bring more culture to the political scene,“ he said, alluding to the brusque manners of the outgoing president.
„Why are there so many disputes in the lower house? It’s the fault of President Zeman,“ said Drahos, who reproached the head of state for supporting the minority government of his populist ally Andrej Babis.
– Support of the prime minister –
The presidential elections coincide with the thorny formation of a new government after the legislative elections of October 2017.
In mid-December, Zeman appointed a minority executive led by the populist billionaire Andrej Babis who, in all likelihood, will not gain the confidence of Parliament.
Babis, whose centrist movement ANO owns 78 of the 200 seats in the lower house, on Thursday gave its support to Zeman.
The Czech Constitution allows the president to make a second attempt to appoint the head of government, and Zeman, whose term expires at the beginning of March, already announced that he would choose Babis again, despite the suspicions of fraud with European funds that surround him. .
The president admitted that the formation of a government could take „months“, during which the current minority executive would continue to lead the country.
Among Zeman’s other rivals are the businessman and author of hit songs Michal Horacek, former right-wing prime minister Mirek Topolanek, former ambassador to France Pavel Fischer and doctor and activist Marek Hilser.
The polling stations will open at 13:00 GMT on Friday and close at 21:00 GMT. On Saturday they will do it between 07:00 and 13:00 GMT. The first significant results will be known a few hours after the closing of the voting offices.