Pro-Russian Milos Zeman wins Czech Republic presidential runoff

Czechs vote in knife-edge presidential run-off

Incumbent Czech President Milos Zeman was re-elected for another five years, beating former Science Academy chairman Jiri Drahos in the runoff vote today, according to CTK calculations based on the preliminary election results, Prague Daily Monitor reports.

The Czech Statistics Office said Zeman had 55.9 percent of the vote with results from 50 percent of some 15,000 polling stations counted on Saturday.

Zeman is the country's third president - after Václav Havel and Václav Klaus - since Czechoslovakia was split in 1993.

Running under the slogan "Decency is a strength", Drahos, a 68-year-old professor of chemical engineering who is a newcomer to politics, could not have been more different.

He was one of the few European politicians to back Donald Trump in the 2016 United States presidential election.

He also wants the European Union to lift its sanctions on Russian Federation over its 2014 takeover of Crimea from Ukraine.

His stance toward Brussels has been lukewarm.


In a final television debate, aired on Thursday, the two candidates clashed over Russian policy with Mr Drahos calling the country a security threat for its views on North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

'This is my last political victory, there will be no political defeats, he told the crowd, flanked by advisers and the leaders of the far-right, anti-EU and anti-Nato SPD party and the Social Democrat party that he once led.

Both candidates rejected the EU's refugee quotas, but Drahos was labelled weaker on the issue in attack ads in the last week by Zeman supporters.

Voting in Prague, Zeman slammed political novice Drahos, dubbing him a rival "who hasn't dealt with politics yet", while Drahos vowed the energy generated during the campaign "won't be wasted, whatever the outcome".

The two presidential candidates are as dissimilar personally as they are politically.

Zeman has a self-advertised appetite for alcohol and tobacco and his health is a concern he suffers from diabetes, and walks with a stick. Drahos is a soft-spoken chemistry professor. He has said that even if he loses to challenger Jiri Drahos, he will swear Babis in as prime minister before his term expires on March 8.

Prague voter Lubos Horcic told AFP he was backing Drahos because "he will work to reconcile society and not divide it like Comrade Zeman", adding that Drahos was "moving towards Europe and the West and not towards the East". "I am convinced this energy will not disappear, that it will stay". Still, Mr Zeman has tapped anti-establishment sentiment, boosting populist politicians that challenged the EU's liberal, multi-cultural values.

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