Czech election: Could liberal centrist claim shock president win? | World | News


The fraught vote, which will take place on Friday January 12, sees the right-wing incumbent president battle it out with eight other candidates for a shot at the presidency.

But although Mr Zeman is polling well as the vote opens, he could be dramatically unseated by a liberal centrist.

Although he is currently in pole position, according to opinion polls, it is unlikely Mr Zeman will in an outright majority at this stage.

A run-off stage in two weeks time will likely see him go head-to-head with liberal pro-European Jiří Drahoš – and there is a real chance he could lose.

A January survey by Czech Television showed Zeman losing a run-off to Drahoš, who beat him with 48.5 percent to 44 percent.

The two men are polar opposites.

Mr Zeman echoes the rhetoric of populist leaders in Hungary and Poland, and is at odds with the European Commission over mandatory refugee quotas, having only taken 12 refugees since 2015.

But centrist Mr Drahoš has called for Prague to “play a more active role in the EU”, and would happily conform with refugee quotas.

Mr Zeman also has vehement anti-Muslim views, and has referred to the 2015 refugee crisis as an “organised invasion of Europe”. He also claims it is “impossible to integrate” Muslims into Czech society.

Political analyst Jiří Pehe told AFP: “The vote shows a broader conflict, it shows how society is polarised.

“It is a clash between… the post-communist part of society represented by Zeman and the other part, say, modern, pro-Western, which simply doesn’t want this president any more.”

And a Drahoš win could scupper Czech prime minister Andrej Babiš’ plans for the coming year.

Mr Babiš is a key ally of Mr Zeman’s and would continue to tack to the right with his policy plans, but this would make it hard to work with Drahoš as president.

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