The Russia-friendly Czech president, Miloš Zeman, has won the first round of voting to retain his job, according to nearly complete results from Saturday’s poll. However, he will face a formidable challenge from the pro-western runner-up, Jiří Drahoš, in the second round of voting in two weeks. The vote was seen as a referendum on the 73-year-old Zeman, in office since 2013, who has criticised immigration flows from Muslim countries and Germany’s decision to accept many migrants. While most Czechs share his views on immigration, Zeman’s inclination towards far-right groups and his warm relations with Russia and China have split public opinion, with a sizeable chunk of the electorate favouring pro-western candidates, including 68-year-old academic Drahoš.
… With votes from 98.9% of districts counted, Zeman led the race with 38.6%, while Drahoš had won 26.6%.
That means a run-off needs to be held and the balance of power may be closer than the first round showed. Four other candidates who ended between the third and sixth place and among them won 32.5%, all endorsed Drahoš for the second round due on 26-27 January.
A win for the soft-spoken, grey-haired chemical engineer Drahoš could mean the tone of the Czech leadership shifts closer to the EU mainstream.