Ze­man fails to win re-elec­tion in first round of vot­ing

Czech pres­i­dent will face a runoff elec­tion in two weeks against the former head of the coun­try’s Academy of Science. Ze­man and Dra­hos ad­vanced to the sec­ond round be­cause none of the can­di­dates re­ceived a ma­jor­ity of flrst round votes

The Gulf Today - - WORLD -

PRAGUE: Czech Pres­i­dent Mi­los Ze­man failed to win re-elec­tion dur­ing the irst round of vot­ing on Satur­day and will face a runoff elec­tion in two weeks against the former head of the coun­try’s Academy of Sciences.

Ze­man and Jiri Dra­hos ad­vanced to the sec­ond round of the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion be­cause none of the nine can­di­dates seek­ing the largely cer­e­mo­nial post re­ceived a ma­jor­ity of irst-round votes.

With bal­lots from 95 per cent of polling sta­tions counted by the Czech Sta­tis­tics Ofice, Ze­man had a big lead with 39.3 per cent of the vote, fol­lowed by Dra­hos with 26.3 per cent. A former diplo­mat Pavel Fis­cher was a dis­tant third with 10.1 per cent.

“The inal is still ahead of us and that’s what mat­ters,” Dra­hos said of the Jan.26-27 runoff. He called on all those “who want a change” to cast bal­lots.

Ze­man, 73 was elected in 2013 dur­ing the coun­try’s irst di­rect pres­i­den­tial vote, a vic­tory that re­turned the former left-lean­ing prime min­is­ter to power. As pres­i­dent, he has be­come a strong an­timi­grant voice and ma­jor pro-rus­sian voice in EU pol­i­tics. Dra­hos, 68, is seen as more west­ern-ori­ented.

The pre­vi­ous two pres­i­dents of the repub­lic cre­ated in 1993 af­ter the split of Cze­choslo­vakia, Va­clav Havel and Va­clav Klaus, were elected by par­lia­ment.

Un­der the Czech Con­sti­tu­tion, the pres­i­dent has the power to pick the prime min­is­ter and to ap­point mem­bers of the Cen­tral Bank board. The pres­i­dent also se­lects Con­sti­tu­tional Court judges with the ap­proval of par­lia­ment’s up­per house.

Oth­er­wise, the pres­i­dent has lit­tle ex­ec­u­tive power since the coun­try is run by a govern­ment cho­sen and led by the prime min­is­ter.

In ofice, Ze­man be­come known for strong anti-mi­grant rhetoric that won him sup­port from the pop­ulist right. He has di­vided the na­tion with his pro-rus­sian stance and his sup­port for closer ties with China.

A chain smoker with a soft spot for al­co­hol, he was one of the few Euro­pean lead­ers to en­dorse Don­ald Trump’s bid for the White House.

He also has voiced sup­port for Trump’s plan to move the US em­bassy in Is­rael from Tel Aviv to oc­cu­pied Jerusalem.

Un­like his eu­roscep­tic pre­de­ces­sor Klaus, he lew the Euro­pean Union lag at Prague Cas­tle and used to be con­sid­ered pro-europe. But in re­cent years has used ev­ery op­por­tu­nity to at­tack the EU, and has pro­posed a ref­er­en­dum on the coun­try’s mem­ber­ship in the bloc af­ter Bri­tain de­cided to leave.

Mi­los Ze­man

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