Published: Sun, January 14, 2018
Global Media | By Abel Hampton

Zeman wins Czech presidential first round vote with 90 percent counted

Zeman wins Czech presidential first round vote with 90 percent counted

Presidential elections kick off in the Czech Republic today, in a test for the polarising incumbent, Milos Zeman.

The Czech lower house on Wednesday postponed the confidence vote until January 16 or later as lawmakers tussled over the fraud allegations and whether to lift his parliamentary immunity to allow prosecution. The vote is seen as a referendum on the 73-year-old Zeman, in office since 2013, who has criticised migration from Muslim countries and Germany's decision to accept many migrants.

The EU and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation country of 10.6 million people has received only 12 migrants under the EU quota system.

According to the CSO, the results of other seven candidates range from 0.47 to 10.22 percent of votes. In 2015, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said that "repeated Islamophobic" statements by Zeman were contributing to "an increasingly xenophobic public discourse" in the Czech Republic.

Drahos, who is seen as the biggest threat to Zeman in the election, is a liberal centrist who wants Prague to "play a more active role in the European Union".

Drahos, 68, is seen as more western-oriented and pro-EU.

The former president of the Academy of Sciences, Jiri Drahos, and popular song writer Michal Horacek are considered major challengers.

As the results rolled in, analyst Jiri Pehe told AFP that "Zeman will have a huge problem in the second round".

The combined voter support for the three also-rans stood at 28.24 percent.

Zeman wins Czech presidential first round vote with 90 percent counted
Zeman wins Czech presidential first round vote with 90 percent counted

After the polling stations closed on Saturday, the election commissioners will start counting the votes and send the data to the Czech Statistical Office (CSU).

As he voted in Prague on Friday, Zeman was targeted by a bare-breasted anti-Kremlin protester who called him "Putin's slut", referring to Russia's president.

Security personnel also had to help a visibly rattled Zeman, who walks with a cane, to leave the room.

After casting his ballot in Prague, Lubos Seidl said the election boiled down to "a clash between the people who think the old way and those who think the new way". The two candidates with the strongest support will advance to the second round.

"Polarisation of society has deepened in the past months", Saradin said.

The outcome may influence Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis's chances of forming a cabinet, although his first attempt to rule in a minority administration is likely to be rejected by parliament next week.

Babis denies wrongdoing. A former centre-left prime minister and backer of a federal Europe, Zeman has gradually shifted to positions criticising the European Union, echoing and reinforcing public sentiment.

Milos Zeman once said he wanted "death for all abstainers and vegetarians", he has declared war-literally-to journalists and on environmental groups he said he would treat them "in the medieval way: he would burn them, urinate on them and I would throw salt at them".

But if one of the rivals wins, this will represent a huge change in the politics of this country that celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.

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