Czech President Milos Zeman failed to win re-election during the first round of a presidential election Saturday and will face a runoff in two weeks against the former head of the country’s Academy of Sciences. Zeman and Jiri Drahos advanced to a second round of voting because none of the nine candidates seeking the Czech Republic’s largely ceremonial presidency received a majority of votes in the first round held Friday and Saturday. However, with almost all ballots counted by the Czech Statistics Office, Zeman had 38.6 percent of the vote, a commanding lead over Drahos’ 26.6 percent. A former diplomat, Pavel Fischer, was a distant third with 10.2 percent. Songwriter Michal Horacek finished fourth with 9.2 percent, ahead of physician Marek Hilser, who had 8.8 percent. The three pledged their support to Drahos in the runoff.
Zeman congratulated Drahos and said he was ready to debate him before the Jan. 26-Jan. 27 runoff. Zeman didn’t take part in any debates ahead of the first round of voting.
“Mr. Drahos said that he would like to meet me face to face. I am happy to oblige him,” the president said.
Election officials said voter turnout was 61.9 percent in the preliminary election. Drahos called on all those “who want a change” to cast ballots in the runoff.