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Vratislav Kulhánek is official candidate for Czech president

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Prague, Oct 18 (CTK) – Former Skoda car maker’s board chairman Vratislav Kulhanek, 73, has officially applied to the Interior Ministry for registration as a candidate for Czech president, billionaire Pavel Sehnal, who heads the small Civic Democratic Alliance (ODA) and sponsors Kulhanek’s campaign, said on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Czech Defence and Security Industry Association head Jiri Hynek, whose potential candidacy is supported by another new small party, the Realists, said he submitted his application to the ministry on Monday.

Sehnal said Kulhanek was the first to do so because he applied for his official registration last week already.

Kulhanek’s campaign is to cost about six to seven million crowns, he said.

To run in the direct presidential election that will be held in January, a candidate must win support for his presidential bid either from at least 50,000 people or 20 lower house deputies or 10 senators. The candidates must apply to get registered by November 7.

Both Kulhanek and Hynek said they received support from more than 20 lower house deputies. Kulhanek said 23 MPs signed his presidential petition, Hynek said he won the signatures of 22 MPs.

The three most popular candidates, incumbent President Milos Zeman, researcher Jiri Drahos and entrepreneur Michal Horacek, said they gathered more than 50,000 signatures from people. Horacek started campaigning last year, Drahos launched his campaign in March. Zeman claims that he wages no campaign, however, he keeps touring the country.

Kulhanek announced his plan to run for president in June and Hynek in August. Although they won the necessary support from MPs, both of them are gathering signatures from people to show that they are popular in the 10.5-million country. Kulhanek said he gathered 35,000 signatures from people, while Hynek said he had about 20,000 of them.

Former ambassador in France Pavel Fischer and Senate deputy chairman Jaroslav Kubera (opposition right-wing Civic Democrats, ODS) won support from the required number of senators, but Kubera has not decided yet whether he is going to run for head of state.

In the previous direct presidential election in 2013, ODS senator Premysl Sobotka was running, but he won only 2.46 percent of the vote in the first round, being last but one among the nine candidates.

In the past, Kulhanek headed the Czech Ice Hockey Association and worked in the Czech Olympic Committee. At present, he sits on the supervisory board of the Kooperativa insurance company and the scientific board of the University of Economics (VSE) in Prague.

Kulhanek said as head of state he would like to see to the observance of the constitution, return respect and dignity to the Presidential Office and remind Czechs that they have something to be proud of.

Kulhanek told CTK previously that he considers the Czech membership of the European Union and NATO crucial for the country.

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