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CZECHIA: Incumbent President Zeman to face Jiri Drahos in tough round-off

On Friday and Saturday, January 12 and 13, the first round of presidential elections took place. Incumbent Milos Zeman passed into the second round as a winner with 38.6% of votes, followed by Jiri Drahos, former head of the Academy of Science, with 26.6%. Three candidates, former diplomat Pavel Fischer (10.2%), millionaire and lyricist Michal Horacek (9.2%) and activist doctor and teacher Marek Hilser (8.8%) followed. Former Czech PM Mirek Topolanek ended up the sixth with 4.3% only. The turnout was slightly below 62%, very similar to the first direct presidential elections 5 years ago.

The second round of the election will take place on January 26 and 27 and the result is expected to be neck-to-neck. Milos Zeman has fairly high stable support (yet also the strongest negative sentiment against him among the other candidates’ voters). In order to beat the incumbent President,  Mr Drahos needs to persuade voters of his contenders to come to the polls and vote for him because all four above mentioned candidates already embraced him with Horacek and Hilser even promising their help in the campaign.

It is expected that the campaign will be very tough and dirty, as the team of current president will try to find a way how to portray Mr Drahos as weak, incompetent and harmful for the Czech Republic. Contrary to his previous statements for the first round, Milos Zeman already announced the willingness to face Mr Drahos in two TV discussions. Zeman is famous for his rhetoric skills, yet his health is far away from being perfect. The performance of both candidates can thus shift the perceptions of undecided voters (or those not willing to come to the polls) considerably.