What is Zeman's victory based on?

Incumbent Miloš Zeman has been re-elected as Czech president. Known for his Euroscepticism, rigid migration policy and closeness to the Kremlin, Zeman won 51,4 percent of the vote, only narrowly beating his rival, the political novice Jiří Drahoš. Europe's media examine the motives of the Czech voters and suspect Russian influence.

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Sme (SK) /

A victory for hatred and vulgarity

Negative emotions have won the day with Zeman's re-election, Sme believes:

“Ex-president Václav Klaus has said that the common sense of normal voters has won out over manipulation. In truth, however, it was a victory for hatred and vulgarity. ... Many of the 2.8 million people who voted for Zeman believed that hordes of Muslims with gleaming eyes were just waiting to plunder Central Europe. This was a victory for the contempt for compassion, education, positive ideas and visions. Everywhere nowadays there are people who want nothing better than to vote for 'negative emotions', frustration and anger. They support the AfD, Marian Kotleba's neo-fascist Slovakian party or the FPÖ. But sooner or later politicians with a positive vision will come along. Eventually - so we believe - in the Czech Republic too.”

Lidové noviny (CZ) /

As inconsiderate as ever

Lidové noviny isn't convinced by Zeman's promise to exercise restraint in his second term of office:

“This assurance didn't include domestic politics. So we can expect him to interfere with the inner life of the social democrats he once led, but also with the form the coming government takes. Zeman won't care who he hurts. This could have a very negative impact on the atmosphere in the country. ... Zeman has never subjected himself to stringent self-control. And he won't start now, as was evident in his reaction after the election to those he doesn't like. With Zeman you always have to expect 'something' to happen. Zeman can no longer be defeated in presidential elections because he is now starting his second term in office. So he will try all the harder to mold domestic policy into his own likeness.”

15min (LT) /

Kremlin has achieved its goal

Zeman's re-election is a dream come true for Russia, 15min asserts:

“Putin's regime doesn't always act on its own. Its dream scenario is when the Kremlin can achieve its goals with help from others. Preferably the help of the citizens whose country it is trying to control. In the Czech Republic this worked out even better than expected. No one can claim that the campaign against Drahoš was planned by Moscow. However, it was backed by both the populist and the pro-Russian political parties in the Czech Republic. ... Many entrepreneurs also backed Zeman. Dank effizienter Bemühungen Russlands vertraut jeder vierte Tscheche den alternativen Medien, die oft Fake News verbreiten, mehr als den etablierten Medien.”

Hospodářské noviny (CZ) /

Frustration and a lack of alternatives

The outcome of the election is a missed opportunity to overcome the rift in Czech society, Hospodářské noviny writes:

“There are three reasons for the results. Zeman was able to capitalise on the frustration of part of the population, he did a great job pulling his campaign together at the end and he didn't have strong enough challengers. What does this mean? That the rifts in society will now deepen and the Czech Republic will move further away from the West psychologically. ... Of course Zeman's victory must be respected. But it has to be said that it's not good news. Particularly because the country now has no hope of reuniting once more.”

PestiSrácok (HU) /

Down-to-earth Zeman wins the day

Journalist Gyula Máté T. sums up the campaign on the pro-government blog portal PestiSrácok.hu:

“Drahoš against Zeman: the 'civilised Europe' has engaged in trial of strength with the 'barbaric East'. On the one side the liberal intellectual who drinks his espresso with his little finger stuck in the air, on the other the son of the people who drinks beer with Becherovka. ... Zeman's victory is a blow for Brussels. And a far worse one than five years ago given that last year the parliamentary elections were also won by an Eurosceptic party under Andrej Babiš. The latter hasn't managed to form a majority in the legislative yet. But with Zeman's backing it now has a real chance of forming a government.”

Duma (BG) /

Citizens vote for steadfastness

The Czechs weren't blinded by the anti-Russian propaganda, the pro-Russian daily Duma comments delightedly:

“Worried by the attacks against Zeman, the silent majority of Czechs played a crucial role in his election victory. The core of the attacks directed against him was his independent and undogmatic policy towards Russia. ... [A majority of Czechs] may not have followed the campaign in detail but they registered the shitstorm against the pro-Russian voices and in the end decided not to stay at home on election day. The Czechs elected the experienced and sensible candidate who represents their national interests and doesn't just dance to Europe's or the US's tune.”

Die Tageszeitung taz (DE) /

Just a big show for the tribune of the people

A president with few powers should not be directly elected, the taz writes:

“What we have observed in the Czech Republic over the last days and weeks was a blend of 'Wheel of Fortune' and 'Czechia's Got Talent'. ... Direct elections turn the president into a tribune of the people, in whom voters project their own hopes and desires. That diminishes the dignity of the office just as much as all the wooing for votes that goes on during campaigning. What's more, experience in the Czech Republic has shown that the president uses the direct election as an argument to be far more political than the constitution actually allows. ... And as his first term showed, the old man clearly enjoys widening the rifts in society. Direct elections only help him to achieve this goal.”