Czech elections: Zeman poised for victory?

The Czechs will vote in the first round of the country's presidential election on Friday and Saturday. Leading the polls is incumbent Miloš Zeman - who favours maintaining Andrej Babiš as prime minister although the latter is facing fraud charges. In the event of a runoff vote, however, the former head of the Academy of Sciences Jiří Drahoš also stands a fair chance of winning. Czech and Slovakian journalists describe the mood in the country ahead of the vote.

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Mladá fronta dnes (CZ) /

Zeman knows where the shoe pinches

Zeman has been clever enough to take advantage of the opinion of the majority, writes Jaroslav Plesl, editor-in-chief of Mladá fronta dnes:

“As his key topic he chose migration, which fell into his lap like a gift from heaven in 2015. The second gift was the absolute inability of most other Czech politicians to react to this problem in an adequate manner. Former prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka simply repeated the statements of Angela Merkel. ... Zeman built his campaign on this topic with his most important slogan: 'This country is ours.' None of his rivals took the slightest interest in the polls in which a majority of the population spoke out clearly against migration. That's why Zeman is the favourite.”

Denník N (SK) /

Czechs should learn from the Slovaks

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš has publicly endorsed incumbent Zeman in the presidential race. Dennik N warns against an alliance between the two:

“Zeman needs Babiš' support to be re-elected. And Babiš needs Zeman's support so that if need be he can govern even without the parliament's vote of confidence. The Czech Republic is ruled today by means of a pact between these two men united by their authoritarian mentality, fear of freedom and rejection of the principle of the rule of law. With this election at least one of the two anti-democrats can be removed before the country falls into a deep hole out of which it could only emerge slowly and painfully. Like Slovakia after the Mečiar era. Fellow neighbours, now is the chance to learn from our past.”

Respekt (CZ) /

A chance for change

Erik Tabery, editor-in-chief of Respekt, hopes for a change of personnel in Prague Castle:

“According to the polls Jiří Drahoš, the former president of the Academy of Sciences, stands the best chance of beating Zeman. A man of experience and decency, in the past he was at the helm of a large and important institution. He doesn't embody any political movement and doesn't polarise society. Most of the recent elections have only widened the rifts in society. This election has the chance to bring about a social compromise. It should be taken.”

Lidové noviny (CZ) /

Zeman playing tricks unabashedly

Incumbent Zeman has waged an ignoble campaign, Lidové noviny admonishes:

“True, he maintains that he's not waging any campaign at all. Of all the candidates, however, he's the one with the biggest posters. He gives interviews, criss-crosses the country and distributes election tracts. His spokesman is continually attacking his main rival Jiří Drahoš. So it's clear to everyone how actively he's been campaigning - with tactics that get around the law. [One accusation often heard is that Zeman is using official trips and state money for his campaign.] One of his advisors maintains that it's not a campaign at all but just a sort of support measure. The law, however, clearly defines electoral campaigns. And everyone respects the definition, only Zeman doesn't care.”