Published: Sat, January 13, 2018
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Zeman leads Czech presidential vote, partial results show

Zeman leads Czech presidential vote, partial results show

The first round of voting passed uneventfully apart from a semi-naked protester who tried to disrupt Mr Zeman casting his vote in Prague on Friday.

One of Milos Zeman's first acts as president was highly symbolic.

However, the BBC's Rob Cameron in Prague says there are indications that the election will go to a second round later this month.

That reassurance did not last long. He adds that "today the Czech Republic is divided as never before by President Zeman and where he places his loyalties".

While Mr Zeman's backing for Mr Babis may prolong political uncertainty as the Cabinet is expected to lose a confidence vote next week, Czech financial assets have been largely immune.

"Prague Castle needs to be fumigated", Michal Horacek, music producer, betting agency entrepreneur and now candidate for president, told the. "I want the castle to be a showcase, a bright light of transparency for this country".

Zeman's political ally, newly appointed prime minister Andrej Babis (left), supports the president's.

Among his closest advisers is the founder of the Czech subsidiary of the Russian oil giant Lukoil.

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"Not everyone has seen these relationships beneficial to the country", says Cameron. "He chose the east and the embrace of Russian interests", Gazdik said. A 68-year-old chemistry professor and former chief of the academy of science, Dr Drahos pledges to improve ties with the European Union and return "dignity" to the presidential post - a jab against Mr Zeman, a chain smoker who had made headlines by swearing in public and haranguing journalists.

"He has damaged our standing internationally, he has alienated key economic and security partners, he has cheapened the public discourse and increasingly he is indulging extremists".

Last October, during a press conference, Milos Zeman took to new levels his open hostility towards journalists by holding a replica of an assault rifle with the inscription: "Towards journalists".

In 2015, for example, he warned the people of South Moravia to prepare for an invasion of Muslim migrants.

In fact he has made the "threat" from the Islamic world - which he calls an "anti-civilisation" - a central theme of his presidency.

This has caused widespread surprise since Zeman, who was a communist, describes himself as a leftist. "Sometimes he behaves like he's not our president, and I'm embarrassed". He has difficulties walking connected with diabetes and has at times looked frail. Now Babis said he did not have enough information at the time when he was entering politics and the ANO movement criticised traditional political parties, including the power-sharing pact of the right-wing ODS of Klaus and the Social Democrats (CSSD) of Zeman. He said this meeting did not influence his position on the presidential election. The Czech population is now about 10.6 million. "They are targeting liberal voters from the cities".

If the opinion polls and betting odds are to be believed, they are ready to re-elect him.

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