Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Zeman, Drahoš to meet in Czech presidential runoff

ČTK |
15 January 2018

Prague, Jan 13 (CTK) - Incumbent President Milos Zeman and Academy of Sciences former head Jiri Drahos advanced to the Czech presidential runoff on Saturday, according to the final results of the first round of the direct presidential election that the Czech Statistical Office (CSU) released on Saturday.

Zeman won 38.56 percent of the vote and Drahos 26.60 percent. They will meet in the runoff on January 26-27.

Five unsuccessful candidates have already promised their support for Drahos. In total, these candidates won nearly one third of the vote. Former diplomat Pavel Fischer won 10.23 percent, lyricist and entrepreneur Michal Horacek 9.18 percent, physician Marek Hilser under 8.83 percent, former prime minister Mirek Topolanek 4.30 percent, and Skoda Auto car maker former board head Vratislav Kulhanek 0.47 percent.

The remaining two candidates won very low support. Defence industry official Jiri Hynek 1.23 percent and musician and producer Petr Hannig 0.56 percent. Hannig supports Zeman and Hynek said he would make his mind shortly before the runoff.

The turnout was 61.92 percent, or more or less the same as in the first round of the first direct election five years ago. The highest turnout was in Prague, 67 percent.

Zeman won in all regions of the country, except for Prague in which Drahos was the winner.

Political analysts expect the fight in the second round to be very tough, possibly also with negative campaigning, but open. They said the present number of Zeman's voters seems unlikely to considerably increase. On the contrary, Drahos may gain in the runoff far more votes than he received this weekend.

Zeman avoided discussions with other candidates until now. On Saturday he said he is ready to face Drahos in a television duel.

Prime Minister Andrej Babis (ANO), Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) leader Tomio Okamura, Communist (KSCM) chairman Vojtech Filip and former president Vaclav Klaus expressed support for Zeman on Saturday. The ANO movement, the SPD and the KSCM hold a comfortable majority in the lower house of Czech parliament.

The leaders of the Civic Democrats (ODS), the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL), TOP 09 and the Mayors and Independents (STAN) backed Drahos.

The official results are expected on Tuesday, after the State Electoral Commission confirms the results on Monday.

The Social Democrats (CSSD) congratulated both Zeman, their former chairman and prime minister, and Drahos.

Pirates leader Ivan Bartos said he would support Drahos in the runoff. He said the party would hold an internal vote and officially back one of the two candidates only if most Pirate politicians agree on it. Most voters of the Pirates seem to support Drahos.

The only serious incident occurring during the election was a topless Femen activist who ran towards Zeman at the moment when he wanted to cast his vote at a Prague polling station on Friday, yelling "Zeman, Putin's slut." The young woman was arrested by the police. Her defence lawyer Lucie Hrda said the activist came to the Czech Republic only because of this. Hrda said her client was not armed and did not want to assault Zeman. She said her client believes the Czechs might threaten the sovereignty of their country because Zeman is under the influence of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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