Czechs re-elect President Zeman, known for pro-Russian views
Czech President Milos Zeman, a vocal opponent of immigration who favors closer ties with Russia, won a second term in office on Saturday.
Zeman took 51.36 percent of the vote to defeat challenger Jiri Drahos by 152,184 votes in the runoff, the Czech Press Agency reported.
Zeman, 73, has spoken out against the European Union, Islam and immigrants, and the election was seen as an indicator of whether populist movements are gaining strength in Europe.
Though the Czech Republic is a member of NATO, Zeman supports closer relations with Russian and China.
He is an admirer of US President Donald Trump. The Czech Republic is the only EU state to have joined the US in recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Zeman was prime minister from 1998 to 2002 before being elected president in 2013.
The Czech presidency is a largely ceremonial role, with the president’s influence resting in his ability to appoint the government and prime minister. Zeman is an ally of current Prime Minister Andrej Babis, whose populist ANO party won the parliamentary election in October.
Drahos, 68, had no experience in politics and ran as an independent.
He is a chemist and former head of the prestigious Czech Academy of Sciences.
He ran on a pro-EU, pro-NATO platform, supported the adoption of the euro and saw the Czech Republic’s future firmly anchored in the West.
The Czech Press Agency, citing official figures released by the Czech Statistical Office, said the turnout was a record 66.6 percent.
Zeman won in 10 regions, with the biggest margin in the Moravia-Silesia region. Drahos won in four regions including Prague and the Central Bohemia, Liberec and Hradec Kralove regions.
Zeman’s inauguration is scheduled for March 8.