Pro-Kremlin Zeman re-elected
The Czech Republic’s pro-Russian president has won a second five-year term after beating his western-oriented opponent in the weekend runoff.
President Milos Zeman received 51.5 per cent of the vote with his opponent, former Czech Academy of Sciences chief Jiri Drahos, secured 48.5 per cent.
Brussels-based political analyst Vojtech Nemec put Zeman’s success down to his support among poorer and rural voters.
The Czech constitution limits presidents to two terms.
Zeman polled 110,000 votes more than in 2013, which surprised some observers given his poor health and patchy performance in the campaign.
Conceding defeat, the chemistry professor said he planned to stay in politics.
Zeman, 73, a former left-wing prime minister, won his first term in 2013 in the Czech Republic’s first presidential election decided by voters, not MPs.
He has proved divisive with his pro-Russia stance, support for closer ties with China and strong anti-migrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric.
Zeman condemned his opponent as weak on immigration, an issue that resonates strongly where opposition to the EU’s migrant quota scheme runs high.
Zeman was one of the few European leaders to back Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. He proposed a referendum on Czech membership of the EU, while saying he would campaign for remain.
Drahos, 68, campaigned on maintaining the Czech role in the EU and Nato. He was unaffiliated with any political party.
One of the president’s responsibilities is picking the prime minister after a general election.
Despite the fall of the government this week, led by populist business leader Andrej Babis, Zeman asked his ally to try again to form a new administration. Babis, the second wealthiest Czech citizen, is fighting police charges of EU subsidy fraud.
Zeman made a triumphant speech to supporters in Prague beside Tomio Okamura, leader of the hardline anti-immigrant Freedom and Direct Democracy party (SPD), which supported his campaign.
Okamura, whose party has a potentially balance-tipping 22 MPs in the Czech parliament, last month hosted a far-right conference attended by Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s Front National, Geert Wilders of the Dutch Freedom Party and other European right-wing politicians.
Zeman is now likely to use his victory to insist a new government has majority support in the 200-seat chamber. That could mean pushing Babis into an alliance with the SPD, although Babis, whose Action of Dissatisfied Citizens (ANO) party has 78 seats, has refused to work with the SPD because of its far-right rhetoric. Other parties say they will not enter a coalition with Babis because of the criminal charges against him.
President Milos Zeman with his ally Vladimir Putin of Russia. Picture credit: Kremlin