Czech President Milos Zeman has been elected to a second five-year term
After an election campaign concentrated on issues of civility in politics and the Czech Republic’s place in Europe, voters decided on Saturday to adhere with President Milos Zeman and his often-caustic label of populism that has stoked outrage toward Muslim immigrants and ruptured the country’s bond with its allies to the west.
His opponent, Jiri Drahos, a political beginner whose views were not well understood, sought to present himself as an antidote to what he characterized as Mr Zeman’s harsh and divisive leadership. In recent years, Mr Zeman, 73, has strengthened the country’s ties with Russia and has attracted China.
Mr Drahos, 68, offered a firm commitment not just to the country’s association in the European Union, but also to the bloc’s values. In repudiating his vision, the country was poised to continue in the same eurosceptic direction as its neighbours Hungary, Poland and Slovakia.
With more than 99 percent of the votes counted, the State News Agency announced Mr Zeman the winner with 51.4 percent of the votes (or 2.8 million), compared with Mr Drahos’s 48.6 percent (2.7 million).
“The Russians could not be happier,” said Michal Koran, an analyst at the Aspen Institute, a think tank stationed at Prague, and the founder of the Global Arena Research Institute, which uses economic data to help interpret political trend
“For all the talk of Russian meddling — and I believe they have meddled beyond a shadow of a doubt,” he added, “Europe is breaking itself, and they do not have to do much.”
Outside observers cited as an example of Russian meddling a pernicious social media campaign against Mr Drahos that accused him, with no evidence, of being a contributor of the secret police during Communist government.
But Mr Koran noted that Mr Zeman’s success was most likely triggered by deep divisions in Czech society and the president’s ability to tap into the anxiety of many Czechs who live outside prosperous cities.
Mr Zeman, interacting with his supporters at a hotel on the outskirts of Prague, said this would be his last campaign, vowing to abide by the constitutional term limits. He admitted how tight the race was, describing how his advisers had gathered excitedly waiting for the numbers from Prague.
In the end, he was moved to victory by a high turnout in the countryside. Overall, turnout was more than 66 percent.
“Five years ago, 2.7 million voters honoured me with their trust,” he said. “This time, it was 2.8 million.”
Mr Zeman’s victory will most likely be viewed with attention by the country’s traditional friends like France and Germany, as well as leaders who are looking for a greater alliance among the European Union’s member nations.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Kootneeti Team