Why the Czech presidential election is one to watch

Czech voters go to the polls this weekend in an election that pits the country's pro-Russia President against a europ...

Posted: Jan 26, 2018 12:34 PM
Updated: Jan 26, 2018 12:34 PM

Czech voters go to the polls this weekend in an election that pits the country's pro-Russia President against a europhile challenger who has given the incumbent a run for his money that few were expecting.

The vote, a second-round runoff between hardline anti-migrant President Milos Zeman, and soft-spoken academic Jiri Drahos, comes as other European countries grapple with populist movements and their future within the EU.

"This is a vote between moving towards a more modern outlook, which is represented by Drahos, and for staying with views which are still influenced by our communist past, which is represented by Zemen," said Jiri Pehe, director of New York University in Prague.

"So that's what's at stake here, whether we will manage to make that step beyond the post-communist era, or whether we will remain mentally rooted in it."

Who's in the running?

Milos Zeman

The tough-talking 73-year-old Zeman, known for his inflammatory remarks against the EU, immigrants, Islam, the media and urban elites, was Prime Minister from 1998 to 2002 before being elected President in 2013.

Zeman has campaigned for closer ties with Russia and China, appealing to "older people, those from small towns and villages, and those who still show some nostalgia for the former communist regime and are afraid of modern trends and globalization," according to Pehe.

Zeman, an admirer of US President Donald Trump, is also known for his inflammatory style. "He's always been a provocateur," said Pehe, adding "he's probably openly the most anti-immigration and anti-Muslim top politician in Europe."

The Czech Republic is the only EU state to have joined the US in recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital, though Hungary did block an EU resolution condemning the American decision last year.

Jiri Drahos

The 68-year-old Jiri Drahos is a chemist and former head of the prestigious Czech Academy of Sciences, who had no experience in professional politics before he decided to run as an independent in these elections.

A centrist, Drahos is pro-EU, pro-NATO, supports the adoption of the euro and sees the Czech Republic's future firmly anchored in the West.

"Drahos is the candidate of the young people who are simply, for lack of a better expression, more modern," said Pehe.

"Zemen tends to be seen as more vulgar, whereas Drahos is more dignified."

How much power does the president actually have?

The Czech President is a largely ceremonial role, with limited political power. Instead, the President's influence lies in appointing the government and Prime Minister.

The current Prime Minister, billionaire businessman Andrej Babis, is a firm ally of Zemen. Babis' populist Ano party won the parliamentary election in October.

Last week Babis' minority government resigned after losing a vote of confidence following allegations he had been defrauding the EU, which he denies.

For now, the party continues as acting administrators of governmental affairs. Babis' future largely depends on he next President.

"Zemen is an ally of Babis who has said he would appoint him as Prime Minister again," said Pehe. "Whereas Drahos has said he's not going to appoint a criminally prosecuted Prime Minister."

Who will win?

In the first round of voting earlier this month, Zeman polled at 38.6%, ahead of Jiri Drahos on 26.6%.

The four other top candidates -- who accounted for 32.5% of the vote -- are now urging voters to back Drahos, so the final outcome is likely to be tight.

"It's not certain Zemen will be reelected because the views of Czech society is really split 50-50," said Pehe.

"So I think a lot of it will depend on the turnout, and whether those voters of other candidates in the first round will now back Drahos."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 319381

Reported Deaths: 7354
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto22264265
Hinds20634421
Harrison18381316
Rankin13862282
Jackson13677248
Madison10234224
Lee10050176
Jones8458167
Forrest7821153
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Lowndes6498149
Lamar633688
Lafayette6298120
Washington5418136
Bolivar4835133
Panola4663110
Oktibbeha466098
Pearl River4597146
Marshall4572105
Warren4440121
Pontotoc424973
Monroe4155135
Union415576
Neshoba4059179
Lincoln4007111
Hancock386087
Leflore3515125
Tate342386
Sunflower339391
Pike3366110
Alcorn324172
Scott319374
Yazoo314171
Itawamba305077
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Copiah299766
Coahoma298383
Simpson298189
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Holmes190374
Clay187554
Stone187433
Tallahatchie180041
Clarke178980
Calhoun174032
Yalobusha167840
Smith164034
Walthall135247
Greene131833
Lawrence131024
Montgomery128643
Noxubee127934
Perry126638
Amite126142
Carroll122330
Webster115032
Tunica108027
Jefferson Davis107833
Claiborne103030
Benton102325
Humphreys97533
Kemper96628
Franklin85023
Quitman81816
Choctaw79018
Wilkinson69332
Jefferson66228
Sharkey50917
Issaquena1696
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 547873

Reported Deaths: 11274
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson809141565
Mobile41984826
Madison35629523
Tuscaloosa26147458
Shelby25580254
Montgomery25075611
Baldwin21805313
Lee16248175
Calhoun14710325
Morgan14618285
Etowah14160362
Marshall12446230
Houston10757288
Elmore10292212
Limestone10179157
St. Clair10155250
Cullman9928200
Lauderdale9591248
DeKalb8963189
Talladega8455184
Walker7330280
Autauga7229113
Blount6937139
Jackson6905113
Colbert6406139
Coffee5622126
Dale4929114
Russell454541
Chilton4470116
Franklin430783
Covington4267122
Tallapoosa4127154
Escambia401180
Chambers3723123
Dallas3606156
Clarke352861
Marion3237106
Pike313978
Lawrence3124100
Winston283272
Bibb267664
Geneva257081
Marengo250665
Pickens236662
Barbour234559
Hale226678
Butler223771
Fayette217762
Henry193743
Cherokee187245
Randolph186944
Monroe179141
Washington170439
Macon162951
Clay160159
Crenshaw155157
Cleburne153144
Lamar146237
Lowndes142053
Wilcox127030
Bullock124242
Conecuh113230
Coosa111429
Perry108726
Sumter105732
Greene93434
Choctaw61725
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High pressure will continue to dominate our weather forecast through most of the work week. This will mean much more in the way of dry and hot weather will be the weather rule through our Friday. However, changes may be coming to our area for this weekend.
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