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LN: Zeman’s spokesman criticises presidential candidate Drahoš

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Prague, March 30 (CTK) – Jiri Ovcacek, spokesman for Czech President Milos Zeman, is attacking presidential candidate Jiri Drahos, former Science Academy (AV) head, on Twitter, and he indirectly criticises his support for migrants, daily Lidove noviny (LN) writes today.

Drahos, 68, officially announced his candidacy for head of state two days ago, while Zeman, 72, confirmed in early March that he would seek re-election in 2018.

“The Czech Republic needs a president who stands up for citizens, for instance, in the situation of the migrant crisis, and not a ‘yes-man’ who will deliver an empty address,” Ovcacek tweeted.

He sharply attacks Drahos for signing the petition Academics against Fear and Indifference in 2015 that reacted to the mass refugee wave heading for Europe. Scientists warned of the increasingly xenophobic atmosphere in Czech society.

Drahos said then the private opinion of the president’s spokesman (Ovcacek) who was talking nonsense had made him sign the petition, LN writes.

“If Milos Zeman is Donald Trump of the upcoming presidential election, Jiri Drahos is Hillary Clinton,” Ovcacek also tweeted.

At the same time, he denied leading a campaign for Zeman’s re-election.

“I am just fulfilling my tripersonal task. I convey the president’s stances, defend his stances and defend the president,” Ovcacek wrote to LN.

The daily points out that Zeman said he would not criticise his rivals when he announced his candidacy. However, he left this task up to his spokesman.

LN says another presidential candidate, lyricist and former successful businessman Michal Horacek, 64, expressed surprise at Ovcacek’s attack, referring to Zeman’s promise not to attack his rivals in the campaign. Horacek said someone should have asked Zeman whether this promise applied to his aides as well.

In his tweets, Ovcacek presents Drahos as someone who is not defending Czech interests since he knows that the nationalist line is attractive to many voters, LN says.

It writes that Zeman used this topic skilfully during his campaign before the first direct presidential election in 2013 when he won.

Zeman then opened the issue of the Benes decrees under which ethnic Germans were transferred from Czechoslovakia, mainly the border regions (Sudetenland), after World War Two and their property was confiscated. Zeman attacked his rival candidate, former foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg (TOP 09), an aristocrat who lived in Austria, saying “he speaks like a Sudeten German and not like a president.”

LN writes that Ovcacek has probably chosen the migration issue for an attack on Drahos because Czechs express fears of refugees in opinion polls. Two-thirds of them said they considered migration and refugees a serious threat in a recent CVVM poll, which is a paradox as the Czech Republic is not a popular destination for migrants, according to the Interior Ministry’s data.

However, Drahos is not naive in his stance on migration, LN writes. In a book interview with him, he criticises Islamic State and the failure of the Arab and Muslim elites as well as the EU’s slow apparatus.

“I am convince that systemic solutions to global problems, such as migration, must be sought on the whole European level,” LN cites Drahos as saying.

Ovcacek also indicates that Drahos stands close to some political parties. However, he has never been a member of any party, not even the pre-1989 Communist Party (KSC), unlike Zeman, former Social Democrat (CSSD) PM and chairman, who was a KSC member in 1968-70.

Yet Drahos has experience with politics about which the public does not know much. As the AV president (2009-2017), he was often in contact with the prime ministers, ministers and legislators, LN writes.

Drahos said he would not like to comment on Ovcacek’s tweets, LN adds.

Some experts point out that Zeman might pay dearly for Ovcacek’ aggression.

“I think that this is counterproductive for Zeman. It can provoke a boomerang effect and turn against him,” political scientist Pavel Saradin told LN.

LN commentator Martin Zverina writes that Ovcacek’s quite hysterical activity proves that Zeman fears any competitors. “Ovcacek has provided a decent publicity for Drahos and helped him in his effort to become more known among the broad public,” Zverina writes.

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